Politics of ‘Insure Tennessee’ Good for Republicans: Governor

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed some tempered optimism Monday about a revival in the General Assembly of his “Insure Tennessee” plan, which lawmakers shot down during a special session last month.

“Insure Tennessee” is the governor’s tentative agreement with the Obama administration to expand government-financed health insurance to low-income Tennesseans who don’t otherwise don’t meet the requirements for getting subsidies coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Haslam said his administration has been in contact lately with members of the Legislature to address their concerns.

A resolution is under consideration in the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday that would grant the Haslam administration authority to finalize a deal with the federal government allowing a two-year Medicaid expansion pilot program. The proposal would allow the state to rake in $2.8 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding to establish medical coverage for around 300,000 people.

Under the proposal, the state would be on the hook for about $74 million, but Tennessee’s hospitals, which stand to reap huge financial rewards from the program, have indicated they’ll cover any of the state’s portion of the costs.

The governor emphasized that he’s under no illusions that his Obamacare-funded scheme is going to be an easy sell in the supermajority GOP-controlled Legislature. “It is hard on this one to get past the politics,” Haslam said.

“We’ve know all along that this would be tough, but I think what we are saying is give us a full hearing and listen to the real arguments instead of some of the political arguments that people are making,” said Haslam. “I still think ‘Insure Tennessee’ is the right thing for the state.”

The governor is sticking with his pitch that the political upsides of Mediciad expansion outweigh the pitfalls, even among Republican voters, who Haslam claims favor the plan.