Health care exchange plan faces criticism in TN - WSMV Channel 4

Health care exchange plan faces criticism in TN

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There's a brand new controversy brewing in Tennessee over the president's health care reform law.

Under the law, the state has until the end of the year to set up its own health care exchange to help the uninsured get coverage.

But lawmakers are now vowing to fight it.

Nancy Patton helps care for her mother, but her own lack of insurance means she can't always care for herself.

"I do have some health issues going on and I'm not able to go to the doctor like I need to go right now," Patton said.

Under federal health reform, the state must have an open marketplace for people to buy private insurance and get tax credits to help pay for it by 2014.

It could impact 700,000 uninsured Tennesseans.

"It addresses a lot of the problems we see right now in the small group market where it's too expensive, it's too confusing or people are shut out because of pre-existing conditions," said Beth Uselton, with the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign.

But the state has a big decision to make. Either set up its own exchange or let the federal government do it for them.

State leaders have started the planning process and are putting together recommendations for the governor. It's up to him to decide whether to go forward with it.

But anything that is set up needs to be flexible in case of changes, court rulings or even outright repeal of the law.

"What we also want to do is make sure anything that we put together we can also walk away from if it becomes disadvantageous for Tennessee," said Brian Haile, director of the Tennessee Insurance Exchange Planning Initiative.

The majority of lawmakers oppose federal health reform and don't like the options in front of them.

"It's a no-win situation," said Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville. "This is a huge undertaking that I think we're getting ready to embark on. I hope Congress does its job and Congress repeals it."

But people like Patton say it can't come soon enough.

"I think this program is going to be a blessing for people who don't have insurance," she said.

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