Politicians, Policy Watchers React to Haslam’s Medicaid Expansion Plan

Monday morning Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced that he had reached a tentative deal with the federal government to use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to help uninsured Tennesseans purchase health insurance.

Haslam has for the past couple of years sidestepped questions about whether he intended to expand Medicaid or not, saying he was looking for a “third option.”

Below are reactions from Tennessee politicians and policy advocates to the plan, a two-year pilot program called “Insure Tennessee.”

Joint statement from U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; December 15, 2014:

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker today released the following statements on Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement of “Insure Tennessee,” which Gov. Haslam calls “an alternative approach” to the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The plan, according to the governor, is “a two-year pilot program to provide health care coverage to Tennesseans who currently don’t have access to health insurance or have limited options.”

Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, said: “Governor Haslam deserves credit for insisting upon a Tennessee plan that the state can afford, and Secretary Burwell deserves credit for being flexible enough to allow the governor to achieve that.”

Corker said: “I have had several conversations with Governor Haslam and appreciate the work he and his team have done to study this issue closely and negotiate a tailored solution that works for Tennessee. I’m glad the administration has finally allowed appropriate flexibility, and I’m pleased our state was able to adopt a solution that will build off of the innovative ways we deliver quality health care.”‎

Statement from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; December 15, 2014:

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued a statement on Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan:

“Gov. Haslam’s announcement is a step in the right direction,” Cooper said. “Expanding health insurance to more Tennesseans is the right thing to do for patients, hospitals and businesses.”

Statement from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; December 15, 2014:

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today released the following statement regarding Governor Haslam’s newly-announced “Insure Tennessee” Medicaid plan:

“While I regret the amount of time that it took Governor Haslam to reach this agreement, I am relieved that he has completed his negotiations with the Obama Administration to begin expanding health coverage to more Tennesseans. I am glad the governor is following Arkansas’ lead and expanding coverage as our neighbor did 2 years ago. I remain cautiously optimistic that the General Assembly will pass and implement the governor’s plan,” said Congressman Cohen. “As a founding member of the Congressional State Medicaid Expansion Caucus, I remain committed to ensuring that all Tennesseans are able to take advantage of the benefits and protections made available through the President’s landmark Affordable Care Act. I believe that a full expansion of TennCare as originally prescribed by the law is the best way to cover Tennesseans, I am hopeful that implementation of the Governor’s plan can put Tennessee on the road to achieving universal health coverage in the future.”

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; December 15, 2014:

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) made the below statement following Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement of the Insure Tennessee plan:

“When a state has an opportunity to take power away from the federal government and institute real conservative reform, that is an opportunity that must be taken seriously. Governor Haslam has negotiated a deal which returns tax dollars back to Tennessee while using conservative principles to bring health insurance to more Tennesseans. I look forward to sitting down with my fellow legislators to take a hard look at what has been negotiated to make sure that the final deal, which must be approved by the legislature, is in the long-term financial interest of Tennessee.”

Statement from Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell; December 15, 2014:

“I have not reviewed the proposal in depth, and therefore cannot comment on the specifics. The governor has proposed what appears to be a state-based, free market reform. My priorities will be ensuring the fiscal stability of the state, and protecting the taxpayers. I look forward to what I’m sure will be a thorough discussion with my colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly.”

Statement from Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro; December 15, 2014:

State Sen. Jeff Yarbro released the following statement on Gov. Haslam’s proposed Insure Tennessee program:

“Any proposal that makes health insurance more affordable for more Tennesseans is a step in the right direction,” State Sen. Jeff Yarbro said. “Getting this program right is a win-win for working Tennesseans, for our hospitals and for our economy. Now, I look forward to hearing more about the Insure Tennessee plan and working with legislators in both parties to do what’s best for our state.”

Statement from Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh; December 15, 2014:

State Representative Craig Fitzhugh issued the following statement on Governor Haslam’s Medicaid agreement with the federal government:

“Today has been a long time coming. While it does not represent a full expansion of Medicaid, I am optimistic that this compromise plan will be something the entire General Assembly can support.

I want to extend my personal thanks to Governor Bill Haslam and the Obama administration for working together on this plan. The Governor and I have often disagreed on how best to approach this issue, but today I’m happy to stand with him working to get this passed. The road will no doubt be bumpy and there will be disagreements along the way, but our caucus will do all we can to assure more affordable, better quality health care for all Tennesseans.”

Statement from Tennessee Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis; December 15, 2014

State Sen. Sara Kyle released the following statement on Gov. Haslam’s proposed Insure Tennessee program:

“Democrats have long sought a solution to expand Medicaid for working people who can’t otherwise afford health insurance,” state Sen. Sara Kyle said. “In Shelby County alone, one in five can’t get covered. I want to thank Gov. Haslam for taking up this issue and presenting his Insure Tennessee proposal today. I look forward to hearing more about it in the weeks ahead.”

Statement from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; December 15, 2014:

The Beacon Center of Tennessee firmly opposes Governor Haslam’s move to expand Medicaid and the reach of Obamacare’s tentacles into our state. As our recent study with State Budget Solutions and Federalism in Action exposed, President Obama’s Medicaid expansion would cost our state’s economy $3.6 billion, while causing more than 67,000 Tennesseans to lose their jobs.

Medicaid has failed to help the uninsured and impoverished. A similar plan in Arkansas has been nothing but a complete disaster. We should instead seek sustainable solutions that provide accessible, high-quality care that can actually make a difference in the lives of those most in need.

The Beacon Center’s healthcare reform package for 2015—to be released tomorrow—proves that Medicaid expansion is both unaffordable and immoral. We will actively work with our state lawmakers to soundly reject this proposal and instead pursue meaningful alternatives that put the quality of life for Tennesseans first.

Statement from Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee; December 15, 2014:

Americans for Prosperity Tennessee State Director Andrew Ogles released the following statement after Governor Haslam announced his plans to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare:

“We’re disappointed Governor Haslam has decided to try implementing more of ObamaCare in Tennessee, even as many of his colleagues in other states have held the line and protected their constituents from this disastrous law. Hybrid plans in other states have proven to be little more than expansion by another name, and our volunteers plan on engaging aggressively, as that is likely to be the case here in Tennessee.

“Expanding Medicaid would double down on a bloated program that’s already failing patients across the country, and unreliable federal funding could put Tennesseans on the hook for billions of dollars. That could mean higher tax bills, cuts to priorities like roads and schools, or both.”

AFP plans to engage heavily in this policy area during the next legislative session, and the group says everything is on the table as it plans for its 2015 efforts.

The organization has fought Medicaid expansion across the country, and has said that the program is simply bad insurance. With fewer and fewer doctors accepting Medicaid, and demonstrably poorer health outcomes, the group says states should have the ability to run Medicaid and work toward quality health outcomes and affordability.

Statement from Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker; December 15, 2014:

“Today’s announcement from Governor Haslam regarding his Insure Tennessee plan is welcomed news for Tennessee’s hospitals. For the past two years, THA’s number one priority has been securing Medicaid expansion in our state and today marks the beginning of this goal becoming a reality. I applaud the governor’s thoughtful approach to this vitally important issue and am grateful for his hard work with the Department of Health and Human Services in recent months.

“Insure Tennessee represents a meaningful alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion. It is a plan that makes sense for Tennessee and its people. The working uninsured in our state currently find themselves in a coverage gap that results in limited access to healthcare. Insure Tennessee can close this gap and help our neighbors and loved ones find quality coverage and access to care. These individuals are hard-working Tennesseans who sometimes hold down multiple jobs and many who have even served our country in the armed forces.

“I also believe Insure Tennessee helps provide a solution to the financial challenges hospitals across Tennessee have faced for the last several years as a result of extreme cuts in healthcare reimbursement. Extending healthcare coverage in Tennessee will lead to lower amounts of charity and unreimbursed care, which helps keep hospitals financially healthy and providing high quality care.

“The health of our communities can only improve when more people have health insurance and the sustainability of hospitals is secure. THA and its members stand ready to support Governor Haslam in the months and years ahead to make Insure Tennessee a reality for our state.”

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron; December 15, 2014:

Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron released the following statement today regarding Governor Haslam’s announcement of his plan for Medicaid expansion:

“The governor’s plan is too little, too late. Years of Republican delay have cost Tennesseans at least $870 million, thousands of jobs, and has even cost thousands of Tennesseans their very lives.

“But now that the governor has received major concessions, legislators should end the stalling and suffering, delay and death.”

BACKGROUND

  • Refusal to accept 100% federal funding for Medicaid expansion has cost Tennesseans an estimated $2.5 million per day since the beginning of 2014, bringing the cost to date to $870 million. However, former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, while in Tenneseee in March, estimated losses of as much as $6 million per day, which would make total losses exceed $2 billion.
  • A University of Memphis study projected that Medicaid expansion would create 18,000 new jobs in Tennessee from 2014-2019.
  • Applying a 2012 New England Journal of Medicine study to Tennessee indicates that expanding Medicaid in 2014 would have saved over 1,800 lives.

Statement from Tennessee AFL-CIO President Gary Moore; December 15, 2014:

Better late than never.

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Governor Haslam plans to expand Medicaid coverage in our state. According to his remarks, this will be done through what he calls the “Insure Tennessee Plan.”

We’ve expressed our thoughts on this topic several times throughout the year. As other states chose to accept federal dollars and expand health care for their residents, Tennessee seemed to sit on the sidelines. Now, that seems to be changing.

Despite this good news, we are not out of the woods just yet. The Insure Tennessee Plan must be approved by the General Assembly before it becomes a reality. Countless residents in the Volunteer State would be positively affected by today’s announcement.

To Governor Haslam: thank you for finally taking action on this issue. While many who lacked health care coverage may not have lived to see this decision, there are still countless others who can receive quality care.

To the members of the General Assembly: please remember the people of Tennessee when you meet for a special session to discuss the Insure Tennessee Plan. Many lives would be affected by a successful implementation, and we hope that all of you will do what is right for Tennesseans.