published Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Health Care Compact bill fails in Tennessee House

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.
Photo by The Tennessean /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — The nation's largest seniors' group is applauding the failure of legislation that would have let Tennessee join with states and ask Congress for permission to run most federal health care programs in their states.

"We are thrilled that our representatives recognized the potential problems with this legislation," AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Shelley Courington said Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Mark Pody's Health Care Compact legislation failed on a 9-9 vote in the House Insurance and Banking Committee.

Several Republicans joined Democrats in questioning why the bill was needed and raising concerns about potential problems it would create with federal funding for TennCare, the state's version of the Medicaid program for low-income Tennesseans.

Others have questioned what would happen if Tennessee was put in charge of running the federal Medicare program for 1.1 million seniors in the state.

The legislation, backed by several conservative groups, was first proposed in 2011 in opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. It seeks to create an interstate compact in which states would petition Congress for permission to run most federal health care programs inside their states.

"This bill does zero for health care policy," said Pody, of Lebanon, adding it simply "allows us to go to Congress."

Puzzled, Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, said, "The bill has to do something. What does the bill do?"

Sargent also questioned what the cost impact the legislation would have on existing federal funding match rates for TennCare and other state-run programs that receive federal money.

Last week when the bill passed subcommittee, Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, a retired health care executive and nurse, questioned what would happen if Tennessee were to get control of Medicare, the federally funded and run health insurance program for some 1.1 million Tennesseans.

"There are too many unanswered questions with this health care compact," she said Tuesday.

In the end, four Republicans, including Sargent, voted against the measure as did all five Democrats on the committee. Nine other Republicans, including Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, voted for Pody's bill.

Pody did not say whether he would try to bring the bill back in hopes of picking up at least one additional supporter to move the bill through committee. The Senate version is expected to come up in committee today.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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