Governor’s plan provides health care coverage to more Tennesseans at no cost to the state
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam this evening addressed a joint convention of the 109th General Assembly as legislators began an extraordinary legislative session to consider his Insure Tennessee plan.
The proposal, a two-year pilot program to provide market-based health care coverage to more than 250,000 Tennesseans who currently don’t have access to health insurance or have limited options, does not create any new taxes for Tennesseans and will not add any state cost to the budget.
“Two years ago, the General Assembly made two requests of us,” Haslam said. “First, to bring a unique and specific plan to Tennessee that met the needs of our citizens and was financially responsible for our state and the country, and secondly, to bring that plan back to the General Assembly for a vote.
“I have done both of those things. This plan is overwhelmingly supported by Republicans and Democrats in our state. Tonight, I am asking for your vote to help Insure Tennessee.”
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government could not force states to expand their Medicaid programs, the governor went before the legislature the next spring to announce that Tennessee would not expand its Medicaid program. He also said at the time that he didn’t think it made sense for Tennessee to reject federal dollars that Tennesseans are paying for, that are going to other states and that could cover more Tennesseans who need insurance, so he started to work on a third way – a “Tennessee plan.”
“After nearly two years of hard work, we have a Tennessee-specific plan that addresses health outcomes and cost,” Haslam said. “This is not Obamacare. If it was, it wouldn’t have taken this long to negotiate. We have done what you asked us to do and what we said we would do. We found a unique, Tennessee solution,” Haslam said.
Citing his own opposition to the Affordable Care Act, especially for its failure to address health care costs, Haslam continued, “As a Republican elected leader, I feel like we owe the country answers as to what we would do about health care. For too long, we’ve said what we don’t like – mainly Obamacare. This is a chance to show what we would do.”
The plan would provide coverage to more than 250,000 uninsured Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, valued at slightly over $16,000 a year for an individual and $27,000 for a family of three.
Five key areas of the governor’s plan include: a fiscally sound and sustainable program; providing two new private market choices for Tennesseans; shifting the delivery model and payment of health care in Tennessee from fee-for-service to outcomes based; incentivizing Tennesseans to be more engaged and to take more personal responsibility in their health; and preparing participants for eventual transition to commercial health coverage.
The governor announced his Insure Tennessee proposal in December and issued a proclamation last month to convene the “extraordinary session” of the 109th General Assembly to consider a joint resolution. The special session, the first of the Haslam administration, began today at 4 p.m. CST.