Dems push for state intervention in health care exchange

Nashville Post, Oct. 27, 2016

By: Cari Wade Gervin

But Haslam orders insurance commissioner to skip meeting


On Wednesday, Democrats and patient advocates pushed the state to intervene to try to solve some of the problems in the statewide health insurance marketplace. However, that push was undermined by Gov. Bill Haslam's office, which, at the last minute, directed the assistant insurance commissioner not to attend the meeting.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. John Ray Clemmons went ahead with the meeting anyway, as The Tennessean reports:

The state has had among the highest premium increases in the past two years, in part because the people buying insurance are sicker than projected and using services more frequently than expected.

Yarbro and Chris Coleman, an attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center, agreed that legislative moves in the state — including anti-ACA legislation prior to the federal policy enactment and failure to expand Medicaid — have hindered the ability of the federally run exchange to take root and develop.

"From the outset we haven't done everything we could to implement the Affordable Care Act with fidelity and integrity," said Yarbro.

Michael Humphreys, assistant insurance commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, was supposed to speak at the forum but canceled the night before at the request of the governor's staff, said Yarbro who added the meeting had been scheduled around Humphreys' availability.

"We always want to be available to legislators to answer their questions. This felt like a politically-motivated meeting," said Jennifer Donnals, spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Haslam.

During the meeting, Jackie Shrago, a special projects coordinator for the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, suggested implementing a state public awareness campaign about the importance of buying insurance, in an attempt to get more young, healthy people on the exchange to bring down costs for insurers.