Tennessee Gov. undecided on Medicaid expansion

Tennessee Gov. Haslam has sent messages to the legislature opposing a bill by State Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham that would block Medicaid expansion, but the governor said he also opposes one by Senate Democrats that would allow expansion.  An aide to the governor said he wants to keep his options open.

Michael Cannon of Cato and I were in Nashville last week, testifying before both houses of the Tennessee legislature where we found strong opposition to expansion in the legislature.  We did not have an opportunity to meet with the governor.

Here is a link to a paper by Avik Roy and me on 12 reasons why Tennessee should not expand Medicaid, which I highlighted in my testimony last week.  http://www.galen.org/assets/Tennessee-should-block-Medicaid-expansion.pdf

And here is the AP story about Gov. Haslam’s non-decision:

Gov. Bill Haslam against bill that aims to block Tennessee from expanding TennCare

NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today formally went on record opposing a bill aimed at blocking Tennessee from expanding its version of Medicaid, TennCare, under the federal Affordable Care Act.

In a “flag” letter to the House sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, Haslam’s director for legislation, Leslie Hafner said “after having carefully reviewed your bill, HB 937, the administration assigned a flag for philosophical reasons.”

While the administration “understands that this is an important issue to you … the administration, however, respectfully disagrees with this legislation in its current form.”

Haslam has said he wants to keep his options open about expansion while he decides whether he will recommend the move to state lawmakers.

Haslam spokesman David Smith noted the governor has also flagged a Senate Democrat’s bill that authorizes the administration to proceed with the Medicaid expansion. Smith did not immediately elaborate on the flag letters.

Durham said while he understands Haslam’s reservations, he intends to press forward with the legislation and a vote in subcommittee

“Absolutely,” he said, noting he and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, announced they would push the legislation back in October.

Asked if the flag indicates to him that Haslam is now leaning toward expansion or simply doesn’t want to have his hands tied as he weighs a decision, Durham pointed out that the letter says the governor is “philosophically opposed to the bill in its current form.”

“Current form says Tennessee will not take part in expanding Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare. So, that tells me he’s not in agreement we shouldn’t expand Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare.”