State lawmakers are up against a big deadline when it comes to the federal healthcare reform law known as "Obamacare" and the ways Tennesseans can be insured.
By the end of next week, Gov. Bill Haslam must decide whether Tennessee will set up an online marketplace to help its residents shop for the best coverage.
The idea has been rejected by lawmakers in several states, who decided they are leaving it up to the federal government to run their program.
So far, Tennessee has put off its decision, but now it is time.
"Obamacare will be in Tennessee. The debate now is who will run it and how will it be in Tennessee," said State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson's Station.
Republicans had hoped Mitt Romney would win the presidential election and make Obamacare a moot point, but that didn't happen.
Now, the state must decide how it wants to set up a health insurance exchange, in which Tennesseans can compare and shop private health care plans for their families or business and see if they are eligible for any type of tax credits.
Either the state can set up its own exchange or let the federal government do it for them, and Haslam still has not made up his mind.
"It's going to be a very difficult decision for our state but hopefully one that reflects the will of Tennesseans," said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
Lawmakers must also decide whether or not to expand Medicaid. If that happens, more than 200,000 Tennesseans would be now covered under TennCare, with the federal government picking up the majority of the tab.
If it doesn't expand, the Tennessee Hospital Association has warned it would cost hospitals in the state millions and could lead some to shut their doors.
While some lawmakers have already filed a bill to reject the expansion, others say it might be in the state's best interests.
"My first blush reaction is that I'm not in favor of expansion, however when you look at the numbers, there is some justification financially as to why we might want to expand it," Harwell said.
The deadline to decide is Nov. 16, and Tennessee is not alone in trying to beat the clock.
Many states are now scrambling, and some like Missouri say they just can't meet that deadline.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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