By Nathan Baker
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Wednesday that Tennessee will not accept federal funds to expand TennCare’s coverage to include more of the state’s poor, but promised to pursue other avenues intended to make the system more efficient and to hopefully allow more people access to medical care.
Citing the costs of the federal Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, Haslam said the legislation “doesn’t affect the real issues of health care reform.”
“Expanding a broken system doesn’t make sense,” the governor said. “Until we get assurances that the costs will not be passed on to the state, our budget amendment will not include language to accept federal funds to expand health care.”
In turning down the funding, Haslam outlined a plan to use federal funding to buy private insurance in order to provide more coverage, but said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has insisted on conditions that are unacceptable.
An expansion of TennCare — the state’s Medicaid program — using the available federal dollars could provide health care to an estimated 140,000 currently uninsured Tennesseans using $1.4 billion in federal funds in the first year.
Under the federal legislation, the cost of the expanded coverage would be paid 100 percent by the federal government for the first 3 years and at least 90 percent after that.