Franklin’s Kristen Grimm sat prepared in Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office Tuesday morning. Sliding out a piece of paper in front of her, she knew exactly what she wanted to say when it came to asking for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act versus a repeal.
President-elect Donald Trump has garnered a hurry-up approach to repealing the ACA. But both Alexander and Tennessee’s other senator, Bob Corker, have urged a moment of pause before dismantling a system that provides millions with healthcare, including those in Williamson County.
As an urging and a moment of solidarity with Sen. Alexander’s willingness to potentially wait to act, Grimm and a dozen others sat in cushy green chairs around a large wooden conference together in the senator’s Nashville office. Spanning from Spring Hill to Brentwood to the pocket of College Grove, the group came to ask for a replacement before any kind of repeal.
Grimm knows all too well the risk of having this coverage taken away with nothing available to take its place.
“None of us walk into the hospital as a Republican or a Democrat,” she said. “We all enter as human beings seeking mercy and quality health care.”
Her son has had 19 surgeries because of medical conditions he was born with. On the day of his latest surgery, Grimm watched another family’s daughter enter her 100th surgery. She said she hoped that no repeal would remove her son or any other children from the parents’ insurance until they were 26, a provision under the current ACA.
Grimm also warned of the consequences of leaving the uninsured right back where they started.
“I come here to ask you and graciously remind your colleagues to remind that the cost of uncompensated care and the prices of emergency surgeries,” she said. “The price of EpiPens to MRIS all the way down to the cost of hospital socks is so high, because of how many people walk in as the uninsured.”
Williamson mom Gael Morkel has similar fears, with her daughter also facing a chronic illness. In addition, Morkel herself also has a pre-existing condition after facing a previous bout with cancer. But with the ACA provisions, she was able to obtain coverage. Under the current law, insurance companies can’t deny anyone coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Several at the table faced Morkel’s concerns not only for their children, but also them for themselves.
“I didn’t have insurance for five years,” she said. “I have a a daughter with cerebral palsy, and what’s going to happen to her? I worry for her future. It’s such a relief to have insurance. I am going to be right back without coverage if we deny this.”
Only a handful of hours later, Alexander’s office issued a release saying he was going to propose a three-step plan of replacing and repealing the current insurance system.
Alexander likened addressing the collapsing Obamacare exchanges in Tennessee and across the country to handling a collapsing bridge.
“If your local bridge were ‘very near collapse,’ the first thing you would do is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt. Then you would build a better bridge, or more accurately, many bridges, as states develop their own plans for providing access to truly affordable health care to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished you would close the old bridge.”
In line with this metaphor, Alexander said the first step would mean a rescue crew to repair it temporarily. He said this will require Congress and President Trump to take action before March 1, which is when insurance companies begin to decide whether they will offer insurance in these markets during 2018.
“Then, step by step, we will build better systems that give Americans access to truly affordable health care,” he said. “We will do this by moving health care decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and patients. Finally, when our reforms become concrete, practical alternatives, we will repeal the remaining parts of Obamacare in order to repair the damage it has caused Americans. This is what I believe we mean when we say Obamacare should be repealed and replaced, simultaneously and concurrently.”
Enrollment into the ACA will end nationwide Jan. 31.