As chairman of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee, Jack Johnson expects to preside over a nuts-and-bolts examination of what’s in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed “Insure Tennessee” plan, which seeks to use federal funding available through the Affordable Care Act to fund vouchers that lower-income Tennesseans could use to purchase private health insurance.
Johnson, a Republican from Franklin, said he currently has “far more questions than answers” about how the plan would work. He also worries about the state becoming more dependent on and beholden to Washington, D.C. “I have grave concerns about accepting additional federal dollars,” said Johnson. “But at the same time I recognize the predicament that some of our smaller hospitals are in — having this ‘doughnut hole’ of people who are between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level.”
As for how Haslam’s plan is likely to fare in the GOP-dominated Senate, Johnson said “it is very difficult right now to count votes.” Many Republicans are withholding judgment until the Haslam administration formally presents the plan to the Legislature in early February, he said.