Insurer departure from Obamacare spurs call for major Tenn. healthcare change

Health Medical Generic
(Graphic: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As an estimated 112,000 plus Tennesseans face an uncertain health insurance future, state lawmakers are using the departure of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) from the Obamacare exchange as a call to make dramatic changes that could affect the medical insurance of one in five Tennesseans.

House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada renewed his call Tuesday for the federal government to send billions of dollars yearly in Medicaid money to Tennessee in the form of what is called federal block grant.

That money would be used to run the state’s Medicaid program TennCare, which has about 1.3 million participants.

“The feds need to block grant our healthcare dollars back to the states,” Casada told News 2. “We can run it efficiently and economically implement free market systems. Give us full reign on our healthcare dollars, which we send to Washington anyway.”

Earlier on Tuesday, State Senator Dr. Mark Greene said he wanted Governor Haslam’s administration “to immediately petition the Obama Administration for a block grant to fund a free-market solution to the collapse of federally-run exchanges in the state.”

Green, who is a practicing physician and founder of a healthcare staffing company, sponsored a resolution approved this year that would request a test program built on free market principles for TennCare.

“We want this request for a pilot program that would put some market forces back into healthcare choices and put the patient in charge of those decisions,” he told News 2. “We would require adequate copays and adequate premiums, we would require you to live a healthy lifestyle, if you don’t–your premiums would go up.”

Democrats have also been speaking out that the BCBST departure saying it’s a message from the insurer that billions have been wasted by the state not passing Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee program which would cover an estimated 200,000 Tennesseans.

“If we had passed it long ago, none of this would be happening,” Nashville Democrat Sherry Jones told News 2. “We would have had all of those dollars coming in where we had BlueCross BlueShield could have adjusted their premiums.”

State insurance officials say that BCBST decision to leave the exchanges leaves 73 Tennessee counties with only one medical coverage option under Obamacare.

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