Tennessee’s highest elected leader plans to spend time this weekend gabbing with other governors about how best to proceed with President Obama’s sweeping health care law.
“To be honest with you, I’m sure that will be the topic du jour,” Gov. Bill Haslam said of the 104th Annual Meeting of the National Governors Association, scheduled for July 12 through 15 in Williamsburg, Va. The governor is scheduled to travel there on Friday.
Haslam has said his administration is still wading through last month’s ruling from a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court.
One facet of the ruling that’s been particularly interesting to Haslam is that the federal government apparently can’t seek to punish states for refusing to expand Medicaid by withholding funding as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act originally suggested.
The Republican governors of Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Louisiana have said they would not implement the expansion.
Haslam says his people are still trying to figure out if Tennessee should enlarge the TennCare Medicaid program, the state’s government-run managed care system for low-income children, parents, pregnant women and the elderly.
The Affordable Care Act also calls for states to build insurance “exchanges,” which are envisioned by federal planners as online government-managed “marketplaces” where consumers can shop for approved insurance plans. The feds vow they’ll set up these exchanges on their own in states where elected leaders refuse to participate.
When other governors are talking about the issues associated with setting up exchanges and potentially expanding Medicaid, Haslam says he’ll be all ears.
“I know I’ll take the chance to say, ‘Tell me what you’re thinking about, why you’re thinking about it and where you are,’” said Haslam.
Tennessee’s governor, as well as Republican governors in other states, actually want to wait until after the November presidential election to decide how seriously to grapple with the various provisions of Obamacare. The GOP’s presumptive candidate, Mitt Romney, has promised to cast aside much if not all the Affordable Care Act should he win the presidency.
But the NGA conference isn’t in fact planned as an all-Obamacare-all-the-time weekend. State-level executive branch heads from around the country are expected to attend a slate of “Governors Only” sessions to plot potential policies for dealing with issues pertaining to agricultural, trade, spurring economic growth and serving veterans.
According to the NGA website, there isn’t even a formal session to talk about the requirements under the ACA or implications of the court ruling. One session will include talk about “innovative strategies to lower Medicaid costs.”
On that issue alone, Haslam says he has a lot of questions and is hoping for some good answers.