The Untold Story Of Obamacare In Tennessee

Rep. Diane Black Congressman, Tennessee 6th District
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Tomorrow President Obama will travel to my home state of Tennessee to tout the supposed successes of his signature healthcare law. The trip marks the president’s third visit to the Volunteer State in less than a year so it seems that we can agree on at least one thing: Tennessee is a great place to visit, and an even better place to call home. The president and I have profound disagreements, however, on the subject of his visit.

I’ve been a nurse for more than 40 years, but you don’t need a background in healthcare to understand that if Obamacare was the success story the president claimed it is, then it would not have landed at the Supreme Court on three separate occasions to begin with. Nor would the president still be traveling across the country to put a positive spin on the law five years after it was first enacted.

Throughout my state, Tennesseans are feeling the squeeze of Obamacare in very real ways. The largest insurer in our region has requested a whopping 36 percent rate hike for next year, despite the president’s repeated promise that his law would save Americans an average of $2,500 per family, per year.

What’s more, some 28,000 Tennesseans lost their health coverage in a single day through the Obamacare-mandated closure of a state health insurance initiative known as “CoverTN” and its affiliate programs  – a grim reality that flies in the face of the president’s infamous promise “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

To top it off, Obamacare has taken direct aim at our state’s top foreign export:  medical devices. Tennessee manufacturers sold $3.6 billion in medical equipment and supplies in 2013, supporting plenty of good paying jobs in the process – but Obamacare’s arbitrary medical device tax threatens this critical revenue stream.

The CEO of DeRoyal Industries, a healthcare equipment company based in east Tennessee, called the tax “the largest cost increase DeRoyal has experienced in its 40-year history.” Perhaps that is why one industry estimate found that the medical device tax could impact up to 195,000 jobs nationwide.

The president likely will not speak to these stories during his visit on Wednesday, and few in the media will confront him about it. That is a shame. What is even more disappointing is the fact that if President Obama had spent much time in Tennessee before proposing his top-down rewrite of our healthcare system, we could have saved him some heartache.

Tennesseans gained a firsthand perspective on the dangers of government-knows-best health reform when we led a failed experiment known as “TennCare.” First enacted in 1994, this program dramatically expanded Medicaid eligibility to just about anyone that wanted it, including healthy, insurable adults who simply lacked employer-sponsored coverage.

Costs for TennCare quickly exploded, rising 146 percent over a ten-year window with little to show in the way of improved health outcomes. In 2004, an independent auditor told our state that the program was not financially viable and was on track to bankrupt the state.

As an emergency room nurse, I witnessed firsthand the adverse effects of TennCare on our health care system, and I ran for the state legislature on the promise of fighting back against the program’s unsustainable growth. It was ultimately a Democrat Governor who scaled back TennCare to a traditional Medicaid model, labeling the program a “disaster.”

The president has not learned from others’ mistakes. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office told us earlier this year that Obamacare would cost taxpayers $2 trillion over the next decade while still leaving 31 million Americans uninsured. The result is a bad case of déjà vu for Tennessee families and a healthcare law that has lost the trust of the American people, even if it was granted a free pass by an activist court.

When the president speaks about the “success” of Obamacare tomorrow, we will be listening, but no amount of spin can change the truth. Tennesseans know that real success means repealing Obamacare in full.