New survey shows concerns among Tennesseans over repeal of Obamacare

This Oct. 24, 2016, file photo, shows the 2017 website home page on display. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Tennesseans may not like the cost and mandates of the Affordable Care Act, but a new survey shows most don't want the entire law scrapped without some replacement features in place.

A statewide survey conducted last week of 840 Tennesseans found that 57 percent of Tennessee respondents want Congress "to keep what works in the Affordable Care Act and fix what doesn't," compared with only 37 percent of Tennesseans who said they want the so-called Obamacare law repealed and for leaders to start over with a new healthcare law.

The random survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Alliance for Healthcare Security, a group that supports the Affordable Care Act. The survey found majority support for many Affordable Care Act features, including protections against denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, paying for routine checkups and providing tax subsidies for low-income workers to buy insurance.

Nearly two thirds of the Tennesseans surveyed said they are "somewhat" or "very concerned" about repealing Obamacare without anything to replace it.

"Even in a red state like Tennessee, there seems to be an overwhelming sentiment that folks don't want to go back to the days when insurers could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or having so many people without health insurance," said Jim Williams, a polling analyst for Public Policy Polling.

The U.S. Senate voted early today to repeal the Affordable Care Act as part of a budget reconciliation bill that will allow the Senate to take action on a simple majority vote, not subject to a filibuster from Democrats trying to preserve Obamacare. The U.S House of Representatives is expected to vote Friday to repeal the Affordable Care Act and President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders are working to have a replacement plan to accompany the repeal once the new president is in office.

Tennessee's hospitals worry that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and other funding sources are not in place as a substitute that more medical bills won't be paid and some rural hospitals might have to close.

"Tennessee's rural hospitals in particular, along with those hospitals with high amounts of uncompensated care, are in dire financial straits and rely heavily on revenue as a result of increased health coverage through the ACA," said Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association. "Losing those additional funds would be devastating."

Both of Tennessee's U.S. senators have voiced caution about just repealing the entire Affordable Care Act without a replacement for many of its most popular features.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate health committee, has urged a three-part plan to repeal and replace Obamare over the next several weeks or months. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, was among a handful of Republican senators who backed an amendment to delay the budget reconciliation approval until March to give more time to work out a replacement plan for Obamacare.

But both Corker and Alexander voted early today in a procedural vote to repeal Obamacare after receiving assurances that a replacement measure will be in place soon. Both have condemned Obama's signature health care plan as too expensive and burdensome for both businesses and consumers.

"The Affordable Care Act has led to high premiums, rising out-of-pocket costs, and reduced choice across the Volunteer State, and I am pleased Congress has initiated the repeal and replace process," Corker said before voting with 50 other Republicans for a budget reconciliation measure early today. "We need a health care system that works for the American people, and I am encouraged that the debate has shifted in recent weeks from 'repeal only' to 'repeal and replace' in a thoughtful and deliberative manner."