Gov. Haslam says no to expanding TennCare - WSMV News 4

Gov. Haslam says no to expanding TennCare

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Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday the state of Tennessee will not expand Medicaid to cover uninsured residents in a federal health overhaul.

Instead, Haslam will seek federal money to expand private insurance coverage, rather than use federal dollars to expand TennCare. However, it's not clear if the federal government supports this idea.

Haslam said in a speech before lawmakers at the Capitol:

"I cannot recommend to you that we move forward on (President Obama's) plan. Our budget amendment will not include language to accept the federal funds. There are a lot of federal requirements that come with Medicaid that make it difficult to provide quality care in the most cost-effective way possible. Instead of insuring more people through an inherently flawed system, we'd hoped to purchase private insurance to insure as many as 175,000 more Tennesseans."

"I applaud Governor Haslam's decision to reject Obama's medicaid expansion. Without bold reform of the Medicaid program tailored to Tennessee's unique situation, there can be no compromise on this issue," said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

An expansion would have estimated to cover roughly 175,000 uninsured Tennesseans and bring in $1.4 billion in federal money in the first year.

Attorney Chris Coleman, with the Tennessee Justice Center, represents Medicaid patients and said he fears the governor's decision will cost the state billions of federal dollars and keep some 140,000 of Tennessee's uninsured from obtaining coverage.

"There are people that will die sooner, will live less healthy lives and have severe financial troubles because of the governor's decision," Coleman said.

The Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a nonprofit health care consumer advocacy organization in Nashville, released a statement saying they did not agree with the governor's decision.

"To say that we are disappointed would be an understatement," said Brad A. Palmertree, Interim Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign. "Governor Haslam had the opportunity to show real leadership for the people of Tennessee. We all know that those who need insurance the most are usually the ones who cannot afford it. Because of his decision, there will still be hundreds of thousands of uninsured Tennesseans. These will be children who will go without needed vaccinations, baby boomers who will continue to put off needed care, and individuals living with disabilities without needed aids."

Copyright WSMV 2013 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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