NASHVILLE - A top state Senate Democrat said today that the expansion of Medicaid to new categories of low-income under the federal health care law "doesn't stand a chance" in Tennessee.
Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney predicted Republican Gov. Bill Haslam won't attempt to expand TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, given the governor's decision Monday not to proceed with a state-operated health insurance exchange.
Haslam, who faced opposition from fellow Republicans in the GOP-led legislature over the insurance exchange, insisted Monday his decision was not political.
But Senate Democrats says Haslam had indicated a state-run exchange would be the best choice, but he "changed his mind following an outcry from Tea Party Republicans and protests at the Capitol."
While the insurance exchange and the Medicaid expansion are unrelated, Finney said in a statement that they are linked politically.
"If the governor doesn't have the votes for exchanges, expanding Medicaid doesn't stand a chance," Finney said.
He warned that without the TennCare expansion, 24 Tennessee hospitals in rural counties are "at risk of closure." That would leave 21 rural counties across the state without a hospital, he said.