Haslam: We'll know by summer whether alternative Medicaid expansion will work

Friday, May 24, 2013 at 2:46pm

Gov. Bill Haslam said he should know this summer whether the state can strike a deal with the federal government over an alternative plan to offering health care coverage to more poor people.

Encouraged by ongoing talks with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services about crafting a way to take advantage of federal dollars to cover the costs, Haslam said the key now is ensuring flexibility in the state’s program.

“I think if we hadn’t made real progress by this summer, I think it will show that we’re not going to, quite frankly,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day ceremony at War Memorial Plaza Friday.

“I still feel like we’re making progress and they still signified a real willingness to work this out,” he said. “It’s not a question of lack of dialogue.”

A recent poll shows staunch opposition to expanding the state’s health care program for poor people is waning in Tennessee almost a year after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the states the option not to expand their Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

A Vanderbilt University survey of 813 registered voters this month showed 33 percent are opposed to expanding Medicaid. The statistics represent a drop of 9 percentage points from last December’s poll and indicates a shift in attitudes toward extending the program, according to pollsters.

“I wasn’t totally surprised by it,” Haslam said of the results. “If more people could have health care coverage and it was something affordable and didn’t impact the state’s budget, I think most Tennesseans would say, ‘Yeah, we’d be interested in that.’ Like everything else, the issue’s in working that out in a way that works for us.”

Haslam said the administration is focused now on details that involve what the state’s program would look like for requiring co-pays on certain treatments for people at specific poverty levels, as well as specifics for health care providers.

The governor announced in March he would forgo a federally funded expansion of the state’s TennCare program in lieu of researching an alternative that would extend health care coverage to 175,000 Tennesseans. If the governor pitches a program the legislature would approve, the program would sunset after a certain period of time. The legislature would then have discretion on whether to continue the program after federal dollars fall short of the total price tag.

7 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 5/25/13 at 1:19

What's wrong with Obamacare? Try it, it might work.

By: Badbob on 5/25/13 at 10:29

The exchanges are showing tremendous savings for citizens is states that have adopted the program. But in Tennessee it is more important to be mean to our President than to do anything to help fellow Tennesseans.

By: Thinkerdavid on 5/28/13 at 1:31


I agree with your comment. Maybe Tennesseans should pay more attention to their professed religion - and less to their political leaders. Oh, silly me. I forget, in Tennessee, those are the same thing...

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/28/13 at 6:55

ACA is working well in the states that set up exchanges.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/28/13 at 7:33


By: Not So Fast on 5/28/13 at 10:44

Yeah, Obamacare is just peaches for everybody. Just ask the President's biggest supporters: labor unions.

From CBS News article:

"It makes an untruth out of what the president said, that if you like your insurance, you could keep it," said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "That is not going to be true for millions of workers now."


Of course, the President also said this when campaigning for health care reform:

"As we move forward on health care reform, it is not sufficient for us simply to add more people to Medicare or Medicaid to increase the rolls, to increase coverage in the absence of cost controls and reform. We can't simply put more people into a broken system that doesn't work."

What has changed about Medicaid under PPACA other than eligibility? Other than a 2-year increase in reimbursements that will provide no long-term benefit to the program, absolutely nothing. Not a single, fundamental change in Medicaid other than more people on the rolls.

As for the exchanges and so-called "savings," the exchanges have cost the federal government more than twice projections at $4.4 billion despite the fact that only 1-out-of-3 states took the bait and agreed to run their own. When the October 1 deadline rolls around, we'll know a lot more about how well this new law is working out.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/28/13 at 12:06

You do realize where many of the savings occur, right? Also, read what I posted. The facts don't lie.