Tennessee Citizen Action Releases Statement On Health Care Reform Repeal Debate in US Congress and State Legislature

Tennessee consumers stood with Tennessee Citizen Action, Tennessee Health Care Campaign, National Alliance on Mental Illness Tennessee, Tennessee Disability Coalition and SEIU Local 205 yesterday and revealed how they have been affected by our inadequate health care system.

During the press conference, Tennessee Citizen Action (TNCA) also called on Congressman Dr. Scott Desjarlais and State Sen. Mae Beavers to oppose repeal and side with the state’s hard-working families.

Here is Tennessee Citizen Action’s statement:

When Tennessee Citizen Action started almost 16 years ago, one of the goals written in to our bylaws is ‘to improve access to quality, affordable health for all Tennesseans.’ It is with that mission in mind that we stand here today along with Tennessee Health Care Coalition, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Tennessee Disability Coalition, SEIU and Tennesseans Nicole Cochran, Ellen Bloomfield and Michael Chapman.

Today, the US House of Representatives, including newly-elected representative, Dr. Scott Desjarlais, will debate the repeal of of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and tomorrow they will vote on repeal.

Last week, the Tennessee Tea Party delivered their legislative priorities to the State legislature, one of which was to reject the health care reform bill.

Yesterday, State Senator Mae Beavers said she would bring back her bill that would do away with the obligation that all people participate in health care reform.

There are several problems with Congressman Desjarlais’s campaign for repeal, the Tennessee Tea Party’s plea for rejection, and Sen. Beavers’ plan for keeping the status quo.

First, so many Tennesseans are struggling in the current economy. They are struggling with massive unemployment. They are struggling to pay mortgages and keep their homes. They are struggling with rising food prices. They are struggling to keep their savings intact. They are struggling to educate their children. In other words, they are struggling harder than ever before to keep a toehold on the American Dream.

These are the urgent problems that Congressman Desjarlais, as well as our state legislature should be addressing. These are the urgent problems that need fixing.

Second, health care reform brings with it new consumer protections that are already helping to protect Tennessee families by bringing unprecedented transparency and oversight to the insurance industry:

  • Insurance companies are no longer allowed to drop coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, or cancel a policy without proving fraud;
  • Consumers can receive cost-free preventive services; including 995,000 seniors in Tennessee who have Medicare coverage and were forced to pay for an annual checkup or other important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • The rate review process will be strengthened to bring more transparency to proposed rate hikes and help states reign in unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance unaffordable for so many Tennessee families.
  • Parents can keep young adults on their plan until age 26; There are 23,100 young adults in Tennessee who could benefit from this option.

These are the fixes to the urgent problems that Rep. Desjarlais, as well as our state legislature, should be supporting and encouraging.

Third, the opposition to the individual mandate that is brewing in our state legislature and led by Senator Beavers is bizarre since it really is a conservative idea. The individual mandate would mean that there are no longer any freeloaders to the health care system.. The annual bill for the uninsured is more than $40 billion. Who pays for that? And why is the health care costs of those who get this kind of care shifted to everybody else? Everybody should participate in the system to bring down the costs of paying for the emergency room services of the uninsured.

Last, I would like to point out that the so-called “repeal” of the health care bill is really a distraction. The ultimate goal is dismantling of the consumer protections within the bill. Again, these consumer protections are what’s important to the health and well-being of all Tennesseans and are what puts us, and not insurance companies, in charge of our health care.

Tennessee consumers who benefit from the numerous protections in the law wonder where Congressman Desjarlais and State Senator Mae Beavers’ priorities are. The repeal plan – any repeal plan – takes away tangible, real-world benefits from the struggling families of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Citizen Action (TNCA) is a public interest and consumer rights organization. Its mission is to work tirelessly to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee.

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