Bredesen criticizes Obama's health care plan

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 11:44pm

Gov. Phil Bredesen is taking the lead among the nation’s governors in warning Congress against forcing states to pay a significant chunk of the cost of health care reform.

Bredesen, co-chair for health care policy for the National Governor’s Association, is objecting to a provision in House and Senate bills to expand Medicaid to cover anyone with incomes less than 133 percent of the poverty level, or $29,327 for a family of four.

Since states pay roughly one third of Medicaid, the provision could add billions of dollars in costs to state governments. Bredesen calls it “the mother of all unfunded mandates,” and he’s been making his case to reporters for weeks now at every opportunity.

“We can’t print money,” he says. “We can’t borrow money. A lot of staffers in Congress really don’t understand this idea of a balanced budget.”

The governor, a former HMO executive, says he favors universal health care, but not if that means added expense to Tennessee’s state government, which already is saddled with a $1 billion annual revenue loss because of the economic meltdown.

“This couldn't come at a worse time for the states,” he says.

The federal government would pick up the new Medicaid costs for two years under bills before Congress. But after that, states would have to pay some of the cost of newly eligible Medicaid recipients.

Governors from both political parties are complaining.

In a letter to the Senate, Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said: “States will likely have to pick up the tab for this extension of Medicaid. We have estimated that the price for Indiana could reach upwards of $724 million annually.

“These additional costs will overwhelm our resources and obliterate the reserves we have fought so hard to protect.”

For Tennessee, the extra cost could reach $1.2 billion, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander. To raise that money, he said the state would either have to cut education and health care programs or impose an income tax.

“The discussion has been that the federal government will take that over for a few years and then will shift that back to the states,” Alexander said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Well, my response is that every senator who votes for such a thing ought to be sentenced to go home and serve as governor of his or her state for eight years and figure out how to pay for it or manage a program like that.

“In our state, we talk about money. Up here, a trillion here, a trillion there,” he added. “But $1.2 billion in the state of Tennessee equals to about a 10 percent income tax on what the people of Tennessee would bring in. We do not have an income tax. So that would be a new 10 percent income tax.”

Health care reform advocates say critics are unduly alarmed and exaggerating the actual costs to the states. Even if states are required to pay more for Medicaid, advocates say, they will ultimately save money if reform lowers health care costs.

“Health care is far too important an issue for our elected representatives to be demagoguing about it,” says Tony Garr, director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign. “There are currently four different versions of health care reform legislation. Some keep all the cost at the federal level. Some would require states to take responsibility for the cost.

“No health care is free. Everyone is paying for health care, but not in a rational way.”

Garr said the most efficient way to improve health care is for everyone to get care in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity.

“Forcing uninsured working people to go to the emergency room is not the right place, time or quantity,” he said. “Ultimately, health care reform will save Tennesseans hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”

12 Comments on this post:

By: slzy on 9/16/09 at 10:21

why does'nt he criticize the convention center,it makes even less sense than obamacare?

By: The Sem on 9/17/09 at 4:42

Governor Phil Bredesen.....hummmmm, I wonder is this the same Bredesen who was mayor of Nashville? Phil Bredensen, oh yeah he's the one who STOLE over 45 million dollars from the "Rainy Day Fund" held by the Metro Water Services and gave it along with the kitchen sink to Bud Adams to build the stadium for the Titans. (We are now paying for it in excessive water bill fees for a so called "storm water impovement program.") The same Bredesen who watched as the crime rate first began to soar with gangs ruling the streets of Nashville while he was mayor yet, he placed his focus on trying to assure that Nashville was known for something other than country music? (Everyone else already knew Nashville as the Athens of the South, as a major southern city overflowing with various industries, except Bredensen!) The same Bredensen who Screwed up our state run insurance program called, Tenncare "Cover TN" or whatever it's called now? The same Bredesen who broke the state of Tennessee? Since this Bredesen fellow has SO time on his hand to advise the Congress and the President about how to operate national health care, Do you think that perhaps, maybe, he can advise the our next governor on how to fix what he screwed up with his reckelss spending? Thanks a lot Mr. Advise, I mean Mr. Governor. Leave it to the EXPERTS to give us ignorant people so much intelligent advise. What would we have done had it not been for that Bredensen fellow? Tennesseans are so lucky to have such a GREAT governor. He should run for President since he has all the answers. Or maybe, he should be an addvisor, yeah that's it, Bredesen, the White House advisor on Helathcare, afterall he is an expert! Look at Tenncare "Cover Tennessee" or whatever it's called now. Just think our governor the healthcare expert... who'd thunk it!
With warmest regards, The Bredesen for President Committee or The Bredesen for Cheif White House Advisor on Healthcare Committee

By: beverlybrown on 9/17/09 at 4:53

beverly Why didn't stop the big ballroom at the Governor Manison? He cut thousands off of TennCare to save money but we need a ballroom to dance. Go figure!

By: TITAN1 on 9/17/09 at 4:58

Thank you Gov. Bredesen for taking a stance and not worrying about party lines on this subject. You were the best mayor Nashville has ever had and you are the best governor! Keep up the good work!

By: BenDover on 9/17/09 at 6:10

Bredesen has done a good job for Tennessee and Nashville. He is spot-on with his criticism of Obama-care. I just hate he stopped short of explaining that the reason it didn't work for Tennessee is the reason it won't work for the country. I guess he has further political aspirations with the national Democrats.

By: Kosh III on 9/17/09 at 6:14

Maybe if he hadn't made such a mess of TennCare if wouldn't be so expensive. Under his regime the policies and procedures have become much more complex. He added greatly to the bureaucratic procedures and added hundreds of positions, while cutting back on coverage for thousands of the "sickest and most needy" (his words)

Maybe next time someone gets sick, they can just jet up to the Mayo Clinic like he did.

Bredesen: Making Sundquist look better all the time!

By: Kosh III on 9/17/09 at 6:18

Since Beverly mentioned it, what about the so called "bunker" that he built underground with millions of tax dollars, just so he could wine and dine his fellow plutocrats and twist their arm for more "donations"

WHY won't this paper or the Tennessean follow up on it.
Is it finished? How much did it cost? When will someone be able to see it? Not of course that the average citizen will ever get to actually see it in person: I am sure he has put up a sign warning riff-raff to keep out.

How about it NCP? Tennessean?.

By: sidneyames on 9/17/09 at 6:44

Wonder how he'd support the Prezident if he had been appointed Health CZAR? Isn't that what all the focus was as soon as O'bama was annointed Prezident?

By: Kosh III on 9/17/09 at 7:39

Yes, Bredesen hoped for a cabinet spot. He might have gotten it if he had actually campaigned for Obama and not bad mouthed him.

By: Blogmaster on 9/17/09 at 8:06

The reason Bredesen doesn't support health care reform is the reason he chooses to reject or support most legislation: its personal benefit for him and his supporters. Bredesen went into politics on the basis of being a successful businessman which is all about profit, and he has taken the same approach to government. I will give him credit for arbitrage knowledge, since he knows how to stay on the fence enough to become a mayor of a reasonably strong Democratic urban city, and turn around and become governor of what must be recognized now as a Republican rural-dominated state. If there were a way for private industry to profit from health care reform instead of taking business out of the profession of medicine, the Bredesen administration would be selling it instead of trashing it.

By: TNCitizen on 9/17/09 at 8:51

Alexander's assertion about a 10% income tax being needed to produce $1.2 billion in revenue is totally BOGUS. A 10% income tax would raise over $5.2 billion. A 1% increase in sales tax would raise the same amount. But that would put us at 10.75% sales tax. The people will revolt at breaking the 10% barrier on sales tax.
What about cutting the sales tax to spur the economy and making up for it with a small income tax that could be graduated to spread the tax bill more evenly across the range of incomes?
There's no more revenue to be extracted from low income folks by a sales tax increase. Tennessee already has the highest rate of personal bankruptcy in the country -- a lot of which is caused by health care expenses.

By: pswindle on 9/17/09 at 9:05

Gov., over the years, you have done many wonderful things for our state, but on this one, you are wrong. The healthcare has put millions in your pocket, and it is time for America to get good heatlh coverage with a public option. We need choice in the same way that every project is a bid-out process.