Mixed reaction from locals over how Graham Cassidy bill would impact Tennesseans


Republicans are trying for a fourth time to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republicans said the Graham Cassidy bill is their last shot to overhaul our country's healthcare.

The biggest change would be how funding is divided up among states. And the bill would give states control over big issues like how to regulate insurance companies and who qualifies for what.

Congressman Phil Roe said right now, Tennessee is the loser under the Affordable Care Act. So this new bill would give the Volunteer State the chance to fix things.

But not everyone is on the same page. News 5 talked to a local woman who benefits under the ACA. She said the new bill may leave out people like her.

Mary Burrell takes seven pills each day to manage her diabetes and bi-polar disorder, an illness she has dealt with her entire life.

"It's a very treatable illness," she said. "But left untreated, it becomes a catastrophic and potentially dangerous situation not just for me, but also the people around me."

Burrell said all of these pills add up. Right now, she's covered through the Affordable Care Act. But without it, her medicine would cost $30,000 each year.

"I live a very normal life with medications," Burrell said. "Without medication, you don't know what kind of life I'm going to live."

Burrell is concerned her bi-polar disorder wouldn't be covered under the GOP's latest bill. That's because it would allow states to determine things like how to regulate the market and if a mental illness counts as a pre-existing condition.

"It's quite frightening," she said. "I don't know what is going to happen if they approve this program."

But Congressman Phil Roe said people like Burrell are misinformed.

"Look, if you have a pre-existing condition, that will be covered under this plan," he said.

And he said state regulation is a good thing.

"The state can come back with innovative ideas that will expand coverage and lower costs," the congressman said. "And we'll get the federal dollars to help do that."

He said the ACA is not affordable for Tennesseans. He said in 2015, 160,000 people paid a penalty because it was cheaper than buying insurance.

The Graham Cassidy bill would change the way money is divided among states, giving out block grants instead.

"We want to equalize that so a state like Mississippi and Tennessee and states that didn't expand Medicaid will get their fair share," Congressman Roe said.

But Congressman Roe said the bill is not perfect. If it passes, he wants to see an amendment that would help people who live in regions like ours get the best price for healthcare.

"You can buy fire, life, your house, car, everything else, across the state line, but health insurance," he said.

Congressman Roe expects congress to vote on this bill next week. If it passes, it would not go into effect until 2020.

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