Dr. Danielle Mitchell’s Response To Senator Lamar Alexander’s AHCA Plug

Dr. Mitchell’s Responses Are Typed In RED.

Here is Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander’s first take on the plan:

“To begin with, the draft Senate healthcare bill makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding— that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation. Let me repeat: it makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases funding for Medicaid—that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation.”

LET’S EXAMINE WHY HE’S BENDING WORDS TO SATISFY THE COMPANIES HE TOOK OVER $228,000 FROM INCLUDING HEALTH INSURANCE, DRUG COMPANIES AND MEDICAL DEVICE COMPANIES.

Alexander continued, “Here are some other benefits for Tennesseans I see in this draft:

  • ALEXANDER: “Offers health care coverage to 162,000 Tennesseans who make less than $12,000 a year, and under the current law, receive zero help buying insurance.”

Why under $12,000 a year and why no help under $12,000?  This number has to do with the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) and the number that falls at 100% of it, which is roughly $12,000 for 2016. ObamaCare created subsidies to help people obtain access to medical care. At its inception the intended goal was to work in conjunction with state Medicaid programs. ObamaCare covers people who fall within 100 to 400% of the poverty level. People who fall below 100% FPL rely upon State Medicaid for their coverage. The problem? Some states have on average set the state FPL qualifying threshold so low that most people below the 100% FPL don’t qualify for state Medicaid assistance unless they fall below 48% of FPL. A Medicaid GAP exists where certain people get excluded from receiving any healthcare subsidies and these are the 162,000 Tennesseans Senator Alexander is referring to. The state expansion of Medicaid that he vehemently opposed back in 2012 would have covered these people who fall in the gap making it so that NO ONE WAS UNCOVERED.

SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER OPPOSSED EXPANSION OF STATE MEDICAID THAT ENDED UP CREATING 162,000 UNINSURED TENNESSEANS

SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER OPPOSSED EXPANSION OF STATE MEDICAID THAT ENDED UP CREATING 162,000 UNINSURED TENNESSEANS

The bottom line: our elected government officials who voted against the state Medicaid expansion in Tennessee effectively sabotaged healthcare for THOUSANDS of uncovered Tennesseans and now Senator Alexander is trying to play hero by saying he wants them covered…no sir, I and millions of other Tennesseans are calling you out on this one too. Senator Alexander was also one of our elected officials in Tennessee who was AGAINST the Medicaid expansion.

CLICK TO WATCH TENNESSEE SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER REFER TO OUR STATE MEDICAID PROGRAM AS A “MEDICAL GHETTO” AS HE DERAILED HEALTHCARE FOR THOUSANDS OF TENNESSEANS BACK IN 2012.

  • ALEXANDER:  “Means the 350,000 Tennesseans who buy their insurance in the individual market – these are Tennesseans who don’t get their insurance on the job or who don’t get it from the government – are more likely to be able to buy insurance next year instead of being in the collapsing ObamaCare exchanges where there may be only one option – or even zero options – to buy insurance.”

IT’S BIKINI TIME!!!

What he’s saying is that insurance companies are going to formulate plans to sell to you that COVER LESS…WAY LESS while charging you significantly MORE for those services that are now mandated to be covered under ObamaCare’s 10 Essential Benefits. The 10 Essential Benefits cover items such as hospitalization and outpatient care, emergency services, maternity care, mental health services, prescription drug coverage, labs, preventative services, substance abuse services and many more.

For a complete list of the 10 Essential Benefits that insurance companies must cover with ACA compliant plans CLICK HERE.

 

  • ALEXANDER:   “Repeals the health insurance tax, which drives up the cost of premiums.”

Well, he got one thing partially right regarding premiums going up, but again was not telling you the complete story.

The ACA levied annual fees on health insurance companies (and similarly on pharmaceutical companies) based on the idea that these companies were going to be making more profitoff of us because now more people would be insured buying ACA health insurance and prescription drugs. In other words, the annual fee effectively was holding these companies RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE OF TAXES!

HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES SIMPLY PASSED THIS FEE ONTO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY THAT RAISED YOUR PREMIUMS.

Opponents of this annual fee state that insurance companies have to maintain certain amounts of financial resources to meet both state and federal actuarial requirements and also have to stay in business.

The questions then begging to be asked:

  • Why are these reserves so high?
  • Where and how are these companies spending their money?  

In the meantime these companies continue to build the biggest structures in downtown Chattanooga. They use the money you pay for your insurance premiums to try to make money elsewhere (i.e., gambling on the stock market?). They continue to pay outrageous executive salaries and bonuses and then during times of their profit loss, which stems partially from their spending habits, try to claim  ‘financial hardship’ so they can then try to justify to our state legislators that they need to raise our insurance premiums and/or cover less on healthcare coverage. And in the meantime these companies are also funding Political Action Committees (PAC’s) to buy off our legislators who then go off and sing the woes of their song and dance.

THIS IS CORRUPTION AT ITS FINEST.  

  • Question: Do you think Senator Alexander’s responses might be influenced by Blue Cross Blue Shield donating $36,250.00 to his campaign between 2011-2016?  
  • **And Chuck Fleischmann receives contributions from them as well.**

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE 13 SENATORS DRAFTING THE HEALTHCARE REPEAL BILL AND THEIR FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

  • ALEXANDER:  “Gives the state more flexibility and continues federal cost-sharing, which our state insurance commissioner said will help bring down the cost of premiums,” and “Slows down sky-rocketing premiums, which in Tennessee have gone up 176 percent over four years.”

Well, let’s take a look at this as well. Julie McPeak currently serves as Tennessee’s Insurance Commissioner. According to this investigative piece, compiled by News Channel 5 out of Nashville, McPeak is being heavily scrutinized because of her close ties to the insurance industry by serving as the President Elect of the National Association of Insurance Commisioners (the NAIC). The NAIC allegedly receives the bulk of its funding from the very groups it is supposed to be regulating…insurance companies. According to the news piece McPeak is rarely in the office as she (and members of her staff) have been flown around the world reportedly more than 30 times in one year attending speaking engagements and seminars for NAIC. All of these trips have all been paid for by NAIC (again a company allegedly being funded by insurance companies).

CONCERNING ITEMS AND QUESTIONS:

  • The very woman responsible for advocating for our insurance rights and protections is being reportedly flown around the world by an organization that is allegedly funded by insurance companies?
  • Julie McPeak doesn’t appear to be in the office enough on a regular basis to perform the job she has been appointed to do?
  • Julie McPeak has approved EVERY SINGLE HEALTH INSURANCE RATE INCREASE REQUEST FOR THE STATE OF TENNESSEE THE LAST THREE YEARS IN A ROW.

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “Repeals the medical device tax on one of our state’s largest exports.”

The medical device industry is also well known to contribute to political candidate campaigns. A simple candidate search under FEC.GOV shows that Senator Lamar Alexander also has several deep financial ties to this industry. A preliminary search reveals that some of Tennessee’s medical device companies may indeed be subject to this tax placed on them by the ACA that is very likely passed onto us, the consumer in the form of higher prices for these items.

What you need to ask yourself:

  • How expensive were my medical devices (such as crutches, hardware, bandages, surgical devices, etc.)?
  • How much do citizens in other developed nations get charged for these same items?
  • Is the cost these companies are charging for these items excessive?  

The questions to these answers will take more scrutinizing of available data but I can lend you some insight into what some of my patients share with me…

In my experience as a physician I see time and again how people are being charged outrageous amounts for medical supplies and devices. Some of these companies are essentially doing the same thing that insurance, drug and healthcare companies are doing…price gouging you and your family.

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “Repeals the employer mandate penalty, which should mean that employers should be able to offer employees more choices of insurance at a lower-cost—and about 60 percent of us get our insurance on the job.”

Currently under the ACA employers who employ more than 50 full-time employees are required to provide those employees with health insurance benefits or face a financial penalty. The idea behind this mandate is to ensure that large-scale companies are protecting and investing in their employees well being. A healthy employee is a more productive employee that in turn secures the financial interests of the company thus ensuring a healthy relationship all around. Repealing this mandate does nothing to impact the cost of health insurance and would simply leave more employees uncovered by large-scale companies who may choose to not cover them at all.

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “Ends the tax on individuals who choose not to buy insurance.”

The ACA levied a tax of 2.5% of household income on individuals who opted out of having health insurance if they could afford to buy it but chose not to. The thought behind requiring people to have basic healthcare coverage touches on several important points:

  • ACA compliant plans cover preventative services. The idea behind true high quality prevention is that we are trying to prevent you, the patient, from having a disease. This would not only potentially save your life and preserve the quality of your life, but also avoid financial ruin that people unfortunately often endure because they unexpectedly become very ill or accidentally injured. As a physician I see this happening to people EVERY SINGLE DAY. Cancer does not have prejudice and Tennessee has some of the nation’s highest death rates related to cancer. Heart disease is rampant in our communities in Tennessee and we have some of the highest death rates in the nationrelated to cardiovascular disease. There is a clear need in our state to make sure that ALL PEOPLE ARE COVERED AND TAKEN CARE OF.
  • As a physician I often times see people fall victim to the false idea that “I’m of normal body weight, therefore I must be healthy,” or “I feel fine so I must not be sick.” These falsehoods oftentimes mislead people into thinking they don’t need medical services and therefore opt out of having health coverage. All it takes is a simple question to prove the glaring reality of this falsehood: “What did you eat for lunch?” The answer to this question often reveals the plethora of processed foods our community is highly dependent upon and often addicted to. These processed foods, which are oftentimes subsidized by our government to be cheap and widely available, are literally killing us. We are in an epidemic of processed foods consumption…and yes, there is a strong tie to these companies also donating heavily to our elected government officials, including Chuck Fleischmann.
  • The last point is that the individual mandate also helps to avoid high-risk pool. It puts people into one single pool and essentially spreads the cost out. Yes, you as an individual will be cost sharing someone else’s care while you are well, but when you get sick and utilize services then everyone else is also paying for your care at that point. It is essential to have this balance in any successful healthcare system. The alternative is what our government is trying to do right now, which is reintroduce pre-existing condition financial penalties/high-risk pool and/or offer less health benefits which essentially charges you more while you receive less.

The sticking point with this tax is that through calculated, and in my opinion, intentional sabotage of healthcare insurance prices (as previously described above) the health insurance premiums became unaffordable which effectively priced people out of being able to buy them. The fix in this case is not to do away with the individual cost share but instead the SOLUTION IS TO FIX THE CORRUPTION IN THE SYSTEM like removing corrupt government officials who get money from these industries that they then allow to price gouge you and your family and intentionally inflate insurance premiums.  

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “…[the AHCA] provides more money for hospitals that serve low-income Tennesseans who don’t have insurance,” and “…[the AHCA] increases funding for Medicaid—that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation.”

Uhmmmm…apparently Senator Alexander hasn’t been informed of the $800.00+ billion dollar cuts to Medicaid being introduced for consideration?

One thing that Tennessee is already struggling with is that our state is 2nd in the nation for hospital closures! These hospitals close because of uninsured uncompensated care. By kicking 23 million people off of insurance we will inevitably end up increasing the amount of uncompensated care far beyond what some of our community hospitals can handle and those hospitals too will succumb to closure.

  • Jobs will be lost.
  • New industry will be lost.
  • Lives will be lost.

Is your community hospital next?

Increasing Medicaid funding at the rate of inflation will not cover the cost of medical care. The rate of inflation is far out paced by the rampant price gouging that is occurring within the healthcare industry. Have you had to pay the 1,100% price increase for long-acting insulin recently? Lots of my patients currently struggle with this and many other episodes of price gouging in the healthcare industry. Increasing the rate of coverage by the cost of inflation demonstrates true incompetence on behalf of Senator Alexander and a complete lack of understanding as to how out-of-control costs impact you and your family’s bottom line.

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “Provides new funding for opioid abuse, and opioid abuse is a rampant epidemic in our state.”

We agree on one thing…opioid abuse and the economical toll it places on our communities in our state is rampant. But apparently Senator Alexander didn’t consider that allowing insurance companies to opt out of providing services for substance abuse might be a wee bit of a small problem?! The enormity of the opioid addiction crisis hits home HARD IN TENNESSEE. So why in the world would you cut currently mandated services that serve to help SOLVE THE CRISIS?!

 

  • ALEXANDER:  “Provides new Medicaid funding for mental health to double the number of days of in-patient treatment.”

This is a prime example of WHY PEOPLE WHO DON’T PRACTICE MEDICINE SHOULDN’T BE MAKING LAWS THAT CLAIM TO KNOW HOW ILLNESS WORKS.

The vast majority of mental health utilization occurs in the OUTPATIENT CLINIC SETTING. Though you can increase the number of days for in-patient treatment, which may help some, the vast majority of need is based on utilization patterns and the bulk of the utilization is in the outpatient setting. He is essentially letting insurance companies get out of their responsibility of paying for the bulk of services that you, your family and your communities need and utilize.

 

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

“IT’S TIME TO ELECT GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO ARE TRAINED TO CARE FOR YOU!”

~Dr. Danielle Mitchell

Running for the 3rd Congressional District of Tennessee