White House claims Obamacare extends insurance coverage, limits health costs in Tennessee

President Barack Obama talks about the Affordable Care Act while in Nashville last July.

Despite record rate increases planned next year by health insurers still participating in the health exchange plans in Tennessee under the Affordable Care Act, the White House says the health care reform measure is benefiting most Tennesseans.

Backers of ObamaCare today touted new studies showing that more Tennesseans have health care insurance and costs for employer-sponsored plans are rising slower with better health care results under the Affordable Care Act than they did before the law was adopted in 2010.

The average premium for families with employer-sponsored health plans grew just 3.4 percent in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust survey. The White House Council of Economic Advisers calculates that the average family premium in Tennessee was $2,100 lower in 2015 than if premiums had grown at the same rate as the pre-ACA decade.

Although price of employer-sponsored plans is rising more slowly, the cost of individual health care plans is soaring under ObamaCare. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance last month approved a 62 percent average increase in individual plans and health exchange policies in 2017 by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and an average of more than 40 percent increases for next year by rivals Cigna and Humana. BlueCross rates have more than doubled in three years.

In response to the dramatic increases in health exchange rates for individuals in Tennessee, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. said the rate hikes are "intolerable" and prove that the Affordable Care Act is not sustainable.

But in a news event today to counter such criticisms, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Slvia Mathews Burwell also said ObamaCare has extended insurance to 266,000 Tennesseans from 2010 to 2015. Only 10.3 percent of people in Tennessee went uninsured in 2015, new Census data show, down from 14.4 percent in 2010.·

Burwell also said that hospital readmissions for Tennessee Medicare beneficiaries dropped 8.7 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In 2015, that drop translates into 2,905 times Tennessee Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital.

"Affordability, access, and quality are how we measure success in the health care system," said Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. "This week's data show Tennessee is making progress on all three under the Affordable Care Act."