published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Gov. Bill Haslam unsure on Obamacare decision

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam says the most recent figure the state has on Tennesseans successfully enrolling in the troubled federal health insurance exchange comes to just a few hundred, but the Republican isn't sure whether he erred by refusing to create the state's own online marketplace.

"The last time I heard the number was something in the low hundreds -- 250 or 300" who successfully enrolled, Haslam told reporters Wednesday. "I do not have a new number on that. Obviously, that's been disappointing for everybody."

Earlier in the day, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the rocky rollout of the agency's website in which only 700,000 people nationwide have been able to complete applications during much of the October roll out.

As for whether he has regrets about not pursing a Tennessee-run exchange, Haslam said some states like Kentucky have done quite well with their exchanges. But other states haven't, he noted.

"It's hard to know the exact answer to that," the governor said. "I do know in the end we felt like it was their [Obama administration's] program. They're the ones who suggested it, and it would be better in this initial stage if they ran it."

He added, "The thought being, at the time, that having two cooks in the kitchen when you're trying to put together something that complex would make it that much more difficult."

Kentucky was one of 17 states, most of them led by Democratic governors, that set up their own exchange. By Oct. 21, some 15,000 Kentuckians had signed up, according to news accounts.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., hammered away at Sebelius with questions about what the Brentwood congresswoman called it a "debacle."

"Hold me accountable for the debacle," Sebelius said. "I'm responsible."

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called on Sebelius to resign.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com.

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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