published Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Gov. Bill Haslam wasting our time, money

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has been reading too many GOP primers on "tell the lie long enough ... ."

This is the same Bill Haslam who joined up with other obstructionist GOP governors to turn down free federal money to expand Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) as part of the Affordable Care Act to cover an estimated 181,000 Tennesseans who won't get coverage under the federal health care law, known best as Obamacare.

That free money -- our tax dollars -- would pay 100 percent of the new cost to the state for three years and 90 percent of the cost thereafter. It's "free" to Tennessee because certainly no one expects a tax refund just because Haslam chose to grandstand.

Several weeks ago, when it became clear that Obamacare wouldn't be repealed and the signup website began to work, Haslam scratched his chin in front of reporters and said he had "a very difficult needle to thread" in persuading fellow Republicans in the state Legislature and the Democratic Obama administration to let Tennessee have the money but expand Medicaid the Volunteer State way. His plan entails limiting care for the Tennesseans in the program, which is managed, in part, in this state by BlueCross BlueShield. But the new law is designed to prevent insurers from limiting care.

Still, federal officials have said they are willing to entertain a proposal, and both the feds and Haslam have said they have had "talks." But Haslam has never given them a detailed, formal, written proposal for a waiver -- something surely Tennessee officials knew must accompany any plan to get special favor. After all, Tennessee had to file hundreds of papers for the waiver that started TennCare several years and gubernatorial administrations ago.

Yet this week, Haslam had the gall to fire off a two-page letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding that he must have federal approval of the special conditions he wants for his "Tennessee Plan," which he unveiled with great fanfare to state lawmakers eight months ago. Without that approval, he warned, "We do not see a path forward in the current environment that will allow us to extend coverage to the Medicaid Expansion population."

It's no joke that he doesn't see a path forward. Haslam, in a fit of partisan bravado, has already turned down $1.4 billion in federal funds beginning Jan. 1 for the Medicaid expansion. Yet at budget talks time, the administration learned that increased costs next year in TennCare threaten to gobble up to 60 percent of all new revenue in the state's upcoming 2015 budget.

To deal with the projected $173 million increase (only $78 million of that is due to expansion for Obamacare), TennCare Director Darin Gordon has outlined up to $118 million in potential cuts, including a worst-case, 5 percent reduction that slashes payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers by 2.5 percent.

The governor and his administration have now had eight months to either formalize a plan or get down off their high horse. He wasted time -- our time. And money -- our money.

Maybe Haslam should go back to his family's struggling oil distribution and convenience store/travel station business, Pilot Flying J.

Oh, but wait, that's in deep trouble, too -- facing a continuing federal investigation on charges of cheating truckers out of Flying J-promised fuel rebates.

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librul said...

Face it - Republicans suck.

December 11, 2013 at 7:52 a.m.
Facts said...

Tennessee is also the same state where Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, cut thousands from TennCare (Medicaid) because it was destroying our state's budget and also the same man who said the "ACA was a lost opportunity" because it didn't do anything to address cost.

So, the truth is that there are socialists like you, Madame Columnist, who don't live in reality and are the most partisan of all despite your constant cries against those who stand in the your way.

December 11, 2013 at 8:02 a.m.
librul said...

First, Facts, HEALTH CARE should not be subject to a 'marketplace' because it is immoral on its face to tell anyone they should suffer because they can't afford needed treatment. That alone is a conviction of the current profit-driven system which is unjust and immoral and has allowed costs to go through the roof. The ACA should have been welcomed by the 'market' because it provided millions of new customers - but it was not because it cut off the 'junk insurance' gravy train.

But since the 'market' horse was let out of the barn long ago, the only solution is to work towards a system of medicare-for-all which redefines the 'marketplace' and places emphasis rightly upon the needs the afflicted rather than the greed of the comfortable. This adjustment will not come easily because it will cause disruption of the junk insurance gravy train causing discomfort for corporatists who care nothing about the afflicted. But as the program evolves toward medicare-for-all, toward provision of HEALTH CARE and away from provision of obscene profits gained on the backs of the suffering poor; the 'market' will adjust to the new normal and all the hand-wringing and bleating of apologists for the profiteers will cease. If those apologists see this coming adjustment as the use of a hammer to reshape the market and a sickle to cut off the legs of the current system, so be it. It's coming - the suffering demand and deserve it.

December 11, 2013 at 8:57 a.m.
soakya said...

Librul, if the suffering demand it, why don't you do all you can to relieve their suffering.

December 11, 2013 at 6:38 p.m.
soakya said...

"This is the same Bill Haslam who joined up with other obstructionist GOP governors to turn down free federal money to expand Medicaid "

Where does that free federal money come from?

December 12, 2013 at 1:17 p.m.
Plato said...

Obviously federal money is not free. Federal money that was available to our state was sent to Washington in the first place by - guess who? The citizens of Tennessee of course!

Haslam is effectively blocking the use of Tennessee Tax Payer's money that has been targeted to assist our state. Notwithstanding the humanitarian concerns of having people without access to routine health care, consider the economic effect. For every citizen that cannot pay for doctor's visits and preventive medications, that's one more that may wind up some day in an ER with a heart attack, or serious injury with "guess who" footing the hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and care.

Haslem's maneuver is based on pure "anti-Obama" politics and is fiscally irresponsible.

December 13, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.
swimmingim2003 said...

Tennessee takes more revenue from the Feds then it gives.

December 16, 2013 at 7:47 p.m.
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