Senator Brian Kelsey on Monday announced the introduction of two health care reform bills in the Tennessee General Assembly. One bill would expand the number of affordable health insurance options to Tennesseans by allowing for the purchase of health insurance across state lines, while the other would give TennCare recipients a personal health savings account (PHA) which is designed to give enrollees more choices and encourage them to make better health care decisions. In addition, Senator Kelsey has drafted a resolution asking Congress to give states the authority to design their own models of reform by providing block grants to the states for Medicaid.
“As far back as 2006 I have supported these reforms to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable,” said Senator Kelsey. “And the time is long past due for the federal government to block grant Medicaid to the states.”
The senate bill would allow TennCare recipients to use a PHA to purchase a benefit coverage plan from an array of options approved by the Bureau of TennCare, ranging from the conventional safety net of limited benefits to full-service benefit plans. The range of options must provide a broad continuum of consumer flexibility including, but not limited to, managed care organizations, self-directed plans, and medical home networks. Plans offered as options would directly compete for the enrollee’s business.
A recipient could choose to use the full amount of the PHA to purchase comprehensive or partial coverage plans. If the enrollee selects a plan with rates that are lower than the total amount of the PHA, then they could retain any balance of the PHA to spend on health care related items. Unused balances would roll forward to the next quarter. If the enrollee ceases to be eligible for medical assistance, a portion of the unused balance of the PHA could be used for health care expenses or to purchase health insurance. Unused funds would revert to the state after 12 months or immediately upon the death of the enrollee.
“Personal Health Accounts encourage good health choices by consumers and gives them skin in the game,” said Senator Kelsey. “This approach would truly provide reform of our health care system in Tennessee.”
The senate bill would allow Tennesseans to purchase insurance in other states with reciprocal agreements, a practice that is currently prohibited by state law. It would allow businesses with two to 50 employees to band together into pools to push for better rates. The out-of–state companies must offer the same individual health benefit plans in its home state, and must comply with the Unfair Trade Practices Act and all other applicable health insurance provisions there. Kelsey predicts the proposed law would increase the number of choices for Tennesseans from over one hundred to thousands of plans nationwide.
“This legislation increases competition and helps to drive the premium costs down so more Tennesseans will have access to affordable health care insurance,” said Senator Kelsey, “Expanding the availability of affordable health care plans and offering consumers more choices should be a key provision of any reform effort, at the state or federal level.”
The PHA legislation would require federal approval through TennCare’s waiver process.
“It’s time for state legislatures to stand against government-run health care," said Senator Kelsey. “States can be laboratories for reform if Washington will provide more flexibility. The end result will be more affordable and accessible access to health care.”