U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he believes that the Supreme Court will not find Obamacare to be unconstitutional – but even if it did, the federal government can swoop in and provide protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.
Tennessee’s senior senator made the remark Saturday following the historic court ruling effectively declaring Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), dead.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas on Friday night ruled the ACA unconstitutional based on the individual mandate that requires people to have insurance and how that affects a new tax law that sets the penalty for no coverage to $0.
Alexander issued a statement on Twitter that said:
“If the U.S. Supreme Court eventually were to agree that Obamacare is unconstitutional — which seems unlikely, however poorly the law was written — I am confident that any new federal law replacing it will continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions who buy health insurance.”
My statement on the ruling in Texas v. Azar. pic.twitter.com/NrFtFRK9tH
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) December 15, 2018
The Supreme Court in 2012 said the ACA was constitutional in a 5-4 vote in a case titled NFIB v. Sebelius.
The Health Insurance Marketplace, which oversees the ACA, tweeted Saturday, “The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with Open Enrollment. There is no impact to your current coverage and your coverage in a 2019 plan.”
The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with Open Enrollment. There is no impact to your current coverage and your coverage in a 2019 plan.
— HealthCare.gov (@HealthCareGov) December 15, 2018
The Chattanooga Times Free Press said that some Democrats, like State Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-TN-21), Senate Minority Leader, are calling on Alexander to take action and protect residents of the state in his role as chairman on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
According to the Times Free Press:
Sen. Alexander, I believe, said that this was never their intent but they’ve done absolutely nothing to ensure that this protection remains in effect,” said Tennessee Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. “Congress has treated this like a political football for years when, for real human beings, it’s a day-to-day problem.
Alexander has recently begun a push to address health care costs. In a speech on the Senate floor on Dec. 11, he said he was asking the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution to help gather ideas on how Congress and the White House can cut health care costs.
The senator cited a July 2017 hearing in which Dr. Brent James, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, said that 30-50 percent spent on health care is unnecessary.
As a country, we spend a huge amount on health care—$3.5 trillion in 2017 according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
When we use Dr. James’ estimates, that means we spent between roughly $1-$1.8 trillion on unnecessary health care in 2017.
At an Axios event Dec. 12, Alexander said the nation should “move from health insurance to health care costs.” He said:
My focus over the next two years is to see if we can do one or two big things to reduce health care costs and maybe 10 or 12 little things and try to move the whole debate from health insurance where we’ve been stuck for eight years arguing about six percent of the health insurance market, that’s Obamacare, to health care costs,” Alexander said.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.