Haslam Says No to Medicaid Expansion

Mar 27, 2013

Gov. Bill Haslam
Credit tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced that he will not pursue expanding the state's Medicaid program to help cover the uninsured as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Haslam says he made the decision knowing that it will have serious consequences for the state’s uninsured citizens, and some of the state’s smaller hospitals.

“I’m convinced that several of our hospitals will be left in an impossible situation and will not survive this transition. Some of our communities – rural and urban – could very well lose their community hospital.”

Haslam told a joint session of state lawmakers Wednesday morning that he’s been negotiating with the federal government to let Tennessee try a third option. Haslam wants to use federal money to subsidize private insurance. The governor says that so far he hasn’t been able to convince the Obama Administration to agree to the experiment.

“I believe Tennessee can be a model for what true healthcare reform looks like: to cover more Tennesseans, and to take significant steps to save Tennessee, and the United States from the unsustainable path that we’re on now.”

Much of Tennessee’s business community had lobbied for Haslam to agree to Medicaid expansion. Michelle Lacewell of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce says business leaders will have to wait along with everyone else to see if Haslam can sell his third option in Washington.

“Because this is going to be a really expensive issue to our businesses in Tennessee to do nothing. So, by the governor having time to develop his plan, it will be a good solution for the state.”

If Tennessee had chosen to expand Medicaid, it would have meant about $1.4 billion in new federal money for the state in the next fiscal year.

Haslam is among the last of the Republican governors to declare a decision on expansion. His choice was complicated by the fact that the health care program and President Barack Obama are widely unpopular in strongly Republican Tennessee.