Press Release from the Democratic Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, March 12, 2014:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh attempted to avert the fiscal, economic and moral blunder of a generation today when he presented his bill to expand Medicaid in Tennessee for as long as the federal government picked up 100% of the tab.
“Obviously, I am disappointed by the outcome of today’s vote. I felt like we addressed many of the members concerns and really felt like this bill could move forward,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “I realize the Affordable Care Act and the federal government are unpopular, but in this case they are throwing us a life jacket, but all we seem to want is an anvil.”
The Tennessee Hospital Association, doctors and nurses, faith leaders, the business community and 63% of Tennesseans have said they want us to expand our Medicaid program. Governor Haslam has said he is working with the federal government on a Medicaid waiver that would allow Tennessee to utilize the federal funds available through the private insurance market.
“If this bill had passed, Governor Haslam could still negotiate with CMS on his plan. If they reached a deal, we could have adopted that waiver at any time,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “Instead, hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans are still without health care, many hospitals are on their way to closing and our economy is in peril.”
During the course of the debate over the bill, Rep. Kelly Keisling (R – Byrdstown) said that “I have 4 hospitals in my district with employment near 700 that are struggling daily just to keep their doors open. This expansion is important enough that each of my facilities administrative staff, along with many of their employees, have contacted me personally to stress their support of the expansion, and I will comply with that request.”
“I would like to commend Rep. Kiesling for showing his colleagues that Medicaid expansion isn’t a partisan issue,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “I want to stress that while I’m disappointed, I’ve not given up and I hope to work with Kelly going forward to convince his colleges that this is a viable path to expansion.
HB1723 would have authorized the expansion of TennCare for up to 330,000 working men and women in Tennessee, saving taxpayers $2.5 million a day in tax dollars that are currently being sent to other states. The expansion would only last as long as the federal portion of the share is 100%. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion would cover individuals up to 138% of federal poverty level with a 100% match, going down to a 90% match in 2021 and beyond. The bill was defeated on a 3-5 vote with Reps. Steve McManus, Dennis Powers, John Ragan, Jimmy Matlock, and Curtis Johnson voting against the best interests of Tennessee.