KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Community Health Alliance has temporarily halted plans to offer smartphones to customers signing up for health insurance, but expects to revive the program later this week.
CHA was asked to change the language in the company's policy in order to comply with state law, which is causing the delay.
CHA has been under fire for the incentive program, but the President/CEO told 6 News he believes the program will help connect consumers to their doctors.
"The idea is to motivate consumers to be engaged in improving their health," CHA President/CEO Jerry Burgess said.
Burgess said the phones and service plans will not be paid for by the more than $70 million federal loan that helped fund the group, but instead they'll be paid for through individual insurance premiums.
CHA said it doesn't believe that federal subsidies will cover the cost of the phones or the service plans, but they won't know for sure until they are able to access the marketplace.
The non-profit is planning to give the LG smartphones to customers who sign up for their health and wellness program through the new healthcare exchange created by the Affordable Healthcare Act.
"I don't want people to misunderstand that you buy insurance and you get a phone. That's not right," Burgess said.
Burgess said customers will be getting a discounted price on the phone plans as part of the organization's deal with Verizon.
"Really, when they've paid their insurance, they've paid their smart phone bill if indeed they follow through," Burgess said.
Following through means meeting the requirements of the health and wellness program which includes submitting the first month's premium payment and selecting a doctor within 90 days of signing up for coverage.
Congressman denounces incentive program
Congressman Diane Black spoke out against the incentive program, releasing this statement on her website:
"This is an absurd abuse of taxpayer money and a reminder of just how pathetic of a program Obamacare is. If this law were everything the President touts it to be, people would sign up for the exchanges on their own merits – not to receive a smart phone. Tennesseans and Americans across the country are being pummeled by increased premiums and limited health care choices because of this disastrous law. Just this morning we learned that a Tennessee school district is being forced to reduce their substitute teachers' hours because of the reckless mandates and penalties this law puts on our nations' employers. With a national debt approaching $17 trillion, how is this a justifiable use of taxpayer money? And how do Senate Democrats defend shutting down the government to protect this disastrous legislation?"