Tennessee’s Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak testified today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about stabilizing health care premiums for 18 million people in the 2018 individual insurance market.
“In an interview last year discussing 2017 filings and rate, I characterized Tennessee’s individual health insurance marketplace as ‘very near collapse.'" McPeak said. “In the 12 months since, our marketplace has not collapsed. Unfortunately, however, our market is not any more stable than it was late last year."
McPeak described what she termed “a very difficult situation” when one provider, Humana, decided to withdraw from the exchange this year, although she said that the state did receive coverage for the affected rating area. Nevertheless, she said that for 78 out of 95 counties to have only one option was less than ideal.
“We need to have a competitive environment so that our consumers actually have choice and we can do something to address premium rates,” she said, explaining that with only one provider, challenging a rate increase becomes difficult.
“The worst possible situation would be for a carrier to flee the market,” she said, a scenario that would leave consumers with virtually no choice.
McPeak said that Tennessee remains concerned about that risk, pending the signing of new carriers at the month’s end.
Committee Chair Lamar Alexander thanked the four additional state insurance commissioners who also testified at the Washington, D.C. hearing: Oklahoma’s John Doak; Washington’s Mike Kreidler; Pennsylvania’s Teresa Miller, and Alaska’s Lori Wing-Heier.