Press Releases

Ramsey: Senate Couldn’t Approve ‘Mere Verbal Agreement’ with Obama Administraion

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; February 4, 2015:

Lt. Governor Ramsey made the statement below following the defeat of SJR0001 in the Senate Select Health Committee:

“Governor Haslam’s hard work and passion on Insure Tennessee has been made clear this week. While many questions have been answered during this special session, several questions remain unanswered. Ultimately, the absence of a clear, written agreement between the federal government and the State of Tennessee made passage impossible. Tennessee has always been a well-run, fiscally-responsible state. We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration.”

Press Releases

Yarbro Urges Support for Insure TN

Letter from Tennessee Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville; February 2, 2015:

In just over an hour, the 109th General Assembly will convene in a special session called by the governor to consider his Insure Tennessee plan.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of the Affordable Care Act mandating the expansion of Medicaid, states have had the option to expand Medicaid on their own, initially funded 100% by the federal government. Unfortunately, Tennessee has not expanded Medicaid, which has left hundreds of thousands needlessly without insurance, cost Tennessee almost $1 billion, and led to lost jobs and closed hospitals.

The governor has still not agreed to seek an expansion of Medicaid. His Insure Tennessee plan, however, would extend insurance coverage to a large portion of Tennessee’s uninsured population, many of whom work full-time but still can’t afford insurance. You can read more about the Governor’s plan here.

I talked with so many of you on the campaign trail about how important it is for Tennesseans to have coverage they can count on and afford. While Insure Tennessee may not be perfect, it’s a common sense solution that will benefit the people of Tennessee. And so, I’m going to support it this week.

Over the last month, there has been widespread support for Insure Tennessee from all corners. The governor’s plan has the support of the business community and organized labor.The health care community – our hospitals, phsycians and advocates – overwhelmingly supports this plan, as has virtually every editorial page in the state. Regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans, reasonable people across this state know that we cannot afford to do nothing.

This plan will lead to more people in Tennessee with affordable health coverage. It will save jobs and make it less likely that hospitals will close. And it will not increase the tax burden of Tennesseans, who are already paying the federal taxes that support this program. It’s a no-brainer.

You will hear opponents this week rail against this as Obamacare, but you likely will not hear them provide a serious alternative. You will read media clips about the Governor’s political capital and the support among his own party. But this week can’t just be about politics. This is serious business for the people of our state, and we as members of the legislature must treat this as a problem to solve rather than as a political game to win or lose.

I ask that you follow what’s happening in the legislature this week. (You can watch the proceedings online here). And, get involved. Make your voice heard with legislators from across the state.

It’s time now for the legislature to get to work.



Press Releases

Full Haslam Remarks from Extraordinary Session Launch

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; February 2, 2015:

Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, and members of the Tennessee General Assembly:

Let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to come before you as you begin this Special Session. Calling a Special Session, which I’ve never done before, is not something I take lightly. I understand the difficulty of the subject we will be discussing. Issues surrounding health care are complex, and the politics can seem difficult, but there are few challenges facing our state or our country today as great as those presented by our broken health care system. I just don’t believe that we can sit back and do nothing.

It might be worth it to remind ourselves how we got here. In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. It was a massive piece of legislation that passed on a totally partisan basis. It was incredibly controversial then, and today, over five years later, it remains controversial.

In June of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a question about the legality of the Affordable Care Act. In a somewhat surprising ruling, they determined that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional but that the federal government could not force states to expand their Medicaid programs. Every state was left to decide on its own whether or not to cover the newly eligible population. While some states immediately decided that they would, others quickly said no. In Tennessee, we took time to evaluate our options to find the right answer for our state. In March of 2013, almost two years ago, I was in this chamber to tell you that Tennessee would not expand our Medicaid program. Expanding a broken system doesn’t make sense. But, I also didn’t think that flat out saying no to accepting federal dollars that Tennesseans are paying for, that are going to other states, and that could cover more Tennesseans who truly need insurance made much sense either.

So we started the work to find a third way – a Tennessee Plan. A plan that would leverage those federal dollars to really begin the work of fixing what is wrong with our health care system, to better align incentives for providers and consumers.

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, I think everyone agrees that our current system of health care does not work. It doesn’t work in two ways – access nor cost. First, there are too many people who need medical care that aren’t getting it. Secondly, everyone should realize that we have to do something to address health care costs.

My problem with Obamacare is that they took on one of those issues – providing more access to health care for folks without insurance coverage – but they did nothing to address the issues around the cost of health care. That was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.

In Tennessee, we want to do something to address that: To have a plan that leverages those federal dollars to really begin the work of fixing what’s wrong with our healthcare system; To better align incentives for providers and consumers; To move away from a fee-for-service, completely volume-driven structure to an outcomes, value-based approach for our providers; And we saw an opportunity for more Tennesseans to be covered in a way that would make them active participants in their health, with skin in the game, and reward them for healthy choices.

After nearly two years of hard work, we have a Tennessee-specific plan that addresses health outcomes and cost. This is not Obamacare. If it was, it wouldn’t have taken us 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. Here’s how it works:

Insure Tennessee is a two-year pilot program that will not create any new taxes for Tennesseans and will not add any state cost to the budget. Once the 100 percent federal match is lowered to its eventual 90 percent, the Tennessee Hospital Association has committed that the industry will cover any additional cost to the state. The program will automatically terminate in the event that either federal funding or support from the hospitals changes in any way. The plan will provide two new options of health care coverage not currently provided in a traditional Medicaid program.

The first is called the Volunteer Plan. It will provide a voucher to participants that they can use to take part in their employer’s health insurance plan. The voucher will be used to pay for premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses that are associated with private market plans.

The second is called the Healthy Incentives Plan. Participants in that plan could choose to receive coverage through a re-designed program of TennCare, which would introduce healthy incentives for Tennesseans, or HIT accounts, which are modeled after health reimbursement accounts and could be used to pay for a portion of the required cost sharing.

Insure Tennessee introduces personal responsibility and patient engagement through choice, incentives, and co-pays in a way that doesn’t happen with Medicaid.

I want you to know how much I appreciate all of you who have truly dug in on this issue. I know there are a lot of honest questions, and I have been impressed with how many of you really are trying to find the right answer for you, your district, and our state. Many of you are concerned about what might happen if the federal government changes the rules, or if the hospitals change their mind about the assessment fee, or if after two years we decide that this is not right for Tennessee. In any of those events, we have the clear authority to end the program. There is a Supreme Court ruling, an Attorney General’s opinion, and a letter from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that affirm our right to do that.

Many of you have asked: “Will we really want to cut people from the rolls?” After all, Tennessee has been down that road before, and many of you were here 10 years ago when we went through the painful experience of doing that.

I’ve thought about that long and hard and intentionally set the program up as a two-year pilot so that if that decision has to be made, it would be made in a time while I am still governor instead of passing it on to my successor.

The way I answer that question is this: Imagine it’s your loved one that is in need of health care and has no way to pay for it now. He or she is like a man we heard about in Jackson two weeks ago. He was a carpenter who suffered from hypertension. He didn’t have insurance, so he didn’t have a primary care physician and used the emergency room when something went wrong. Because his hypertension wasn’t managed through preventative and regular care, he ended up having a stroke. That landed him in the hospital, followed by rehabilitation, and now he is unable to work.

He was a hard working Tennessean that wasn’t able to get the care he needed on the front end and that has real consequences for him and his family. It also means added cost for the rest of us. Having a stroke wasn’t only devastating to him and his family, it could have been prevented, and not preventing it is costly to all of us. It’s about getting the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

If you gave your loved one an option – you can have health coverage now to address your very real need and with that the possibility that you might lose it in the future, or you could never have it – which would you choose? If you think about your loved one, I bet the answer is simple.

I know that many of you are worried about the reliability of the federal government as our partner. I understand the concern, but I think it’s worthy of mention that the United States of America has never missed a scheduled Medicaid payment.

Some have said that this is about bringing Obamacare to Tennessee. It’s not. Tennesseans are already paying increased taxes due to Obamacare, and there are 150,000 people in this state receiving health care subsidies from Obamacare. And guess what? On average, those people are making three times more than the Tennesseans that would be covered through Insure Tennessee. That’s Obamacare, but that’s not what we’re talking about. This is a chance to make a real difference in health care.

Finally, I know that many of you share my concern about our state becoming even more reliant on a federal government that is deeply in debt. I think all of you know my view on budgets. Next week I will be presenting to you my fifth budget as the governor of the state of Tennessee, and we have a track record of being able to make hard decisions. We have a record of fiscal responsibility that is second to none, and I would never do anything to endanger the financial strength that so many have worked so hard to build.

On the federal government side, I would not do this if I didn’t honestly believe that our efforts will ultimately have a real impact on controlling health care costs in our country. Our country is not going to fix this issue around the deficit or around our national debt until we solve the health care cost crisis.

We should all be upset that Congress and President Obama passed a plan that did not do that when they had the chance. But we do have the chance. And that is why I’m recommending this plan.

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. We talk frequently about wishing Washington would just block grant Medicaid to us. I still wish they would do that. And if they did do it, we would come up with a plan that looks a lot like this. Admittedly, we would go further and take more steps, but the plan would look a lot like this.

I think this is also an issue about who we are. My faith doesn’t allow me to walk on the other side of the road and ignore a need that can be met – particularly in this case, when the need is Tennesseans who have life-threatening situations without access to health care. Particularly when the need can be met like this one can, without cost to our state, with money that our state is currently being taxed for and is sent elsewhere, and with a plan that can help answer one our nation’s biggest issues.

I know and fully appreciate that for many, the easiest thing is to say: “This is Obamacare, and I want nothing to do with it.”

I would ask you to look past the easy political argument and do what Tennesseans have always done – come up with a plan that addresses Tennesseans’ needs and do it in a fiscally responsible way. Like many of you, I didn’t come to state government just to make a point. I came to make a difference.

We have the chance to make a difference – a difference that will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans and at the same time to begin attacking the out of control health care costs that have driven our state and our country for too long.

Two years ago, the General Assembly made two requests of us: 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 second, 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.

Press Releases

Ramsey Announces Extraordinary Session Committee Memberships

Press release from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; February 2, 2015:

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Press Releases

Kelsey Releases Open Letter from County GOP Chairmen Opposed to Insure TN

Press release from Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; February, 2, 2015:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) today will accept a letter from a statewide coalition of conservative leaders and activists who oppose Medicaid expansion. Sen. Brian Kelsey stated, “Republican opposition to Obamacare Medicaid expansion is gaining momentum. These county party chairmen reflect the grassroots Republican opposition that is taking hold in the legislature.” Kelsey and Durham will discuss the open letter on behalf of the legislature at a press conference today at 10:30 am, scheduled for Hearing Room LP30.

Signatories to the letter include current chairs and party members from counties served by rural hospitals, such as West Tennessee Healthcare in Weakley County. Signatories also include persons recently included on a list of circulated by supporters of Medicaid expansion who did not intend to support the governor’s proposal. Party chairs signing the letter:

  • Rachel Welch–Chairman, Putnam County Republican Party
  • Gayle Jones–Chairman, Giles County Republican Party
  • Barry Hutcherson–Chairman, Chester County Republican Party
  • Chris Thompson–Chairman, Pickett County Republican Party
  • Dolores DiGeatano, MD–Chairman, Fayette County Republican Party
  • David Baldovin–Chairman, Moore county Republican Party
  • Sue Jackson–Chairman, Obion County Republican Party
  • Daniel Williams–Chairman, Carroll County Republican Party
  • Ben Nixon–Chairman, Warren County Republican Party
  • Harold Kemp–Chairman, Macon County Republican Party
  • Constance Hightower–Chairman, Hamblen County Republican Party
  • Debbie Baldwin–Chairman, Benton County Republican Party
  • Judi Swilling–Chairman, Claiborne County Republican Party
  • Jimmy Knight–Chairman, Union County Republican Party
  • Fred Ellis–Chairman, Lincoln County Republican Party
  • Ken Coppinger–Chairman, Rhea County Republican Party
  • Richard Swink–Chairman, Robertson County Republican Party
  • Ronald Wayne King–Chairman, Scott County Republican Party
  • Robert Dunham–Chairman, White County Republican Party

An excerpt from the letter reads, “As conservatives in our communities, we have worked hard to elect leaders we trust will uphold our values of shrinking government, imposing less taxes and costs on businesses and individuals, and embracing a free market.

“We reject ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. And we need you to stand strong on these principles in the coming special session.” A copy of the letter is attached.


Dear Legislators:

As conservatives in our communities, we have worked hard to elect leaders we trust will uphold our values of shrinking government, imposing less taxes and costs on businesses and individuals, and embracing a free market.

We reject ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. And we need you to stand strong on these principles in the coming special session.

Although Governor Haslam originally opposed Obamacare, it appears he has chosen to abandon those principles now that he is safely in his second term. His proposal for Insure Tennessee is no more than expansion of Obamacare by another name.

Nearly 9 in 10 Tennesseans eligible for Medicaid expansion are working-age adults without dependent children to support, according to the Urban Institute. Instead of adding a whole new generation onto welfare programs like Medicaid, we need to get working-age adults working again. Our state deserves a clear path to jobs and prosperity―not an ObamaCare Medicaid expansion like Insure Tennessee.

We are also concerned about how this ObamaCare Medicaid expansion is funded. In particular, $716 billion will be cut from Medicare in order to pay for the Medicaid expansion and other parts of the law, according to The Heritage Foundation. Medicaid expansion breaks the Medicare promise we made 50 years ago. And if other state Medicaid expansions are any indication, Medicaid costs will skyrocket―putting Tennessee seniors at further risk.

We are all aware of the mess that TennCare created and the difficulty our state had when we had to end the program and kick 350,000 Tennesseans off the Medicaid rolls.

Governor Haslam’s “two year pilot program” reeks of the same issues that we had less than a decade ago. Tennessee should not make the same mistake again.

We reject the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion known as Insure Tennessee. On behalf of many local Republicans oppose this expansion, we urge you to do what’s right for Tennessee and stand strong against this proposal.


Tennessee Republican Party Chairs

Press Releases

Brief History of Tennessee General Assembly ‘Extraordinary Sessions’

Press release from Tennessee Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin; January 31, 2015:

On Monday we will be gaveled into Extraordinary Session at the call of the Governor to consider his Insure Tennessee plan.  This will be the 58th Extraordinary Session in the State’s history.  See below for a brief history of special sessions in Tennessee.  I hope you find it interesting!
– Jack

A Brief History of Tennessee Extraordinary Sessions
Written by General Assembly Librarian Eddie Weeks

On February 2, 2015, the 109th General Assembly will convene in Extraordinary Session.

This will be the 58th Extraordinary Session in the history of the State.  The most recent Extraordinary Session was held in January 2010.

Of the 57 Extraordinary Sessions in the state’s history, five were called by Gov. John Sevier, the State’s first Governor, and 31 were called before the year 1900.

Of these 57 Extraordinary Sessions, 55 were called by the Governor as provided in Article III, Section 9, of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, while two were called by the Legislature as provided in Article II, Section 8 (1971 and 1982).

In 1913, Gov. Ben Hooper issued a call for an Extraordinary Session of the 58th General Assembly, beginning September 18.  He listed 61 subjects, plus 148 items of local legislation, to be considered by the legislature.  The General Assembly adjourned sine die from Extraordinary Session on September 27, 1913; Gov. Hooper then issued a proclamation on September 30, 1913, calling for a Second Extraordinary Session to begin October 13.

In 1935, Gov. Hill McAlister issued a call for an Extraordinary Session of the 69th General Assembly.  He listed 64 subjects, plus 172 items of local legislation, to be considered by the legislature.  He then issued a supplemental call with an additional 68 items to be considered, and then issued a second supplemental call with an additional 9 items to be considered.

The 70th General Assembly is the only General Assembly to have met in three Extraordinary Sessions, and is the only General Assembly to have been called into Extraordinary Session by two different Governors:  Gov. Hill McAlister in December 1936 (after the members’ election in November 1936) and Gov. Gordon Browning in October and November 1937.

The Extraordinary Sessions of 1971, 1982, and 1996 each lasted only one day; the Second Extraordinary Session of 1890, the Extraordinary Session of 1936, and the Extraordinary Session of 1944 each lasted four calendar days.

The Second Extraordinary Session of 1866 lasted from November 5, 1866 until March 11, 1867.

Perhaps the most famous Extraordinary Session in the State’s history was in 1920.  On August 7, 1920, Gov. A. H. Roberts issued a call for an Extraordinary Session of the 61st General Assembly to convene August 9.  He listed 142 subjects to be considered (plus an additional 20 in a supplemental call), but all that most people remember is the first item:  “To take action upon the amendment to the Constitution of the United States… giving women the full right of suffrage, being the proposed Nineteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.”

On Friday, August 13, Senate Joint Resolution 1, “Relative to ratifying proposed Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” was adopted by the Senate, 25 Ayes, 4 Noes, 2 PNV.

On Wednesday, August 18, Speaker of the House Seth Walker moved that SJR 1 be tabled; the motion failed 48 – 48.

SJR 1 was then concurred in by a vote of 50 Ayes, 46 Noes, and women throughout the United States gained the right to vote.