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House Democrats Pan Haslam’s Exchange Decision

Press Release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus, Dec. 10, 2012:

House Democratic leaders expressed disappointment Monday that Governor Haslam has left the job of implementing an insurance exchange to the federal government

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Haslam announced today that Tennessee would not be setting up a state-based health exchange as called for under the Affordable Care Act. His decision will result in the federal government taking over responsibility for creating a health insurance marketplace for Tennessee consumers and small businesses.

“I’m disappointed to see the governor pandering to the far right of his party rather than doing what is best for the people of Tennessee,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “I would hate to know that I had a 70 percent approval rating statewide, and couldn’t get my own party to support my initiatives.”

State-based exchanges have enjoyed bipartisan support historically. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wrote in an op-ed recently that it would be “best for Tennessee to develop its own exchange because exchanges are an innovative, market-driven strategy, which foster competition, choice, cost-savings and quality among insurers.”

“It is disappointing that our governor found it too difficult to do what 23 other states have begun to do — implement their own health insurance exchange,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “In the end, if Governor Haslam was unable to convince his party to reject partisan politics and do the right thing, perhaps it was best for him to allow the federal government to begin setting up an exchange for him.”

While Governor Haslam’s decision to leave health care exchanges to the federal government takes this issue off the table, Democrats will continue to push for Tennessee to participate in the federally funded Medicaid expansion that could cover an additional 330,000 low-income, working families, who are not offered insurance through work and earn just over the poverty level — too much to qualify for TennCare.

“While the governor is able to fall back on the federal government to handle these health care exchanges, he won’t be able to shirk the responsibility for participating in the Medicaid expansion,” Fitzhugh said. “If we don’t participate in the new Medicaid program, we’ll be leaving $10.5 billion in federal dollars on the table. Punting on this issue would hurt Tennessee businesses, working families and rural hospitals.”

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