Despite political-legal assaults, Obamacare shows signs of growing stability in Tennessee

Jul 18, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  There are growing signs of stability in Tennessee's Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marketplace, even as state officials work to kill the federaly subsidized health insurance program.

State regulators say health insurance carriers Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Ambetter and Cigna all plan to expand coverage in Tennessee next year.

After heavy financial losses, Blue Cross-Blue Shield in 2017 stopped offering Obamacare policies in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. The company returned to the Knoxville market a year later and will return to Nashville and Memphis in 2020.

Senior Vice President Roy Vaughn says Blue Cross has learned to "stay nimble" in a challenging health care marketplace.

"Fundamentally, we believe this coverage is important for people. It is not only about their physical and emotional health, but it's about fiscal health as well."

In a further sign of growing stability, Kevin Walters with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance says several current insurance carriers also plan to lower Obamacare premiums. 

“Cigna has proposed a rate request seeking a premium decrease of .5 percent. ...Ambetter is asking for a 1.6 percent decrease. Oscar Health is seeking a decrease of 8.3 percent.” 

Currently, Tennesseans hold some 221,000 Obamacare polices. That's down 18 percent from a peak of 268,000 policies purchased in 2016.

Tennessee's Republican leadership has joined with 20 other states in a lawsuit aimed at ending the Affordable Care Act. They argue the Act was rendered unconstitutional in 2017 when Congress eliminated the so-called invidual mandate, a tax penalty on individuals without health insurance.

In early July, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case. The court is expected to render a verdict later this year. Regardless how the Fifth Circuit rules, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.