Tennesseans split over Medicaid growth

Tennesseans split over Medicaid growth

December 13th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a conference in Nashville.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.


The Vanderbilt poll, which surveyed voters over landline and cellphone service, also looked at several issues expected to come up in the General Assembly in the session that starts in Jan. 8.

• 53 percent believe employers should be required to allow workers to store guns in vehicles parked in company lots, while 44 percent said government shouldn't force businesses to allow weapons on their property.

• 44 percent said voters should elect state Supreme Court justices, while 28 percent the governor should continue to appoint them.

• 65 percent would support opening additional charter schools.

• 47 percent favor nuclear power, 15 percent are opposed and 37 percent said they haven't heard enough to have an opinion.

• 61 percent favor wind power; 12 percent oppose it.

Source: Vanderbilt poll

NASHVILLE - Tennesseans are evenly split over whether the state should expand TennCare to cover more people under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to a poll released Wednesday by Vanderbilt University.

Forty-seven percent of 829 registered voters surveyed said TennCare, the state's version of Medicaid, should be expanded. But 46 percent, including nearly two thirds of Republicans, believe current eligibility standards should stay in place.

The issue is one of several that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the GOP-controlled General Assembly are confronting.

On another health care issue, 53 percent of those surveyed said Tennessee, rather than the federal government, should run a health insurance exchange. Just 33 percent favored the federal government doing it.

Nearly three quarters of Republicans favored the state running it, while just 31 percent of Democrats did.

But Haslam's already made his decision: He announced Monday -- two days before the poll's release -- that he's leaving it up to the feds.

He said he believes Tennessee could run it better, but charged that the Obama administration had been vague on how much control the state would actually have over the online marketplace.

The exchange is aimed at helping low-income residents who don't qualify for Medicaid find affordable coverage with the aid of federal subsidies.

The poll, conducted Nov. 27 to Dec. 9, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Just business

Haslam spokesman David Smith called the governor's choice "a business decision."

"He understood throughout the process that there were strong opinions on both sides of the issue but removed politics from his decision making," Smith said in an email.

"And he'll do the same on Medicaid expansion," Smith added.

Also in the poll, 73 percent of respondents approved of the federal health care reform that lets children stay on their parents' health plans until they are 26.

But only four out of 10 agreed with a provision that blocks insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, more for coverage.

Sixty-one percent opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. Yet half favored "strict limits" on how much money Washington spends on Medicare and Medicaid, while 42 percent opposed it.

Job approval

Tennesseans give Haslam a 68 percent approval rating for his performance since he took office nearly two years ago.

The poll's co-directors, Vanderbilt professors John Geer and Joshua Clinton, called that pretty high compared to governors in most other states.

Haslam's approval rating also was the highest among major elected officials. Still, 60 percent approved U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's performance. Corker, a Republican and former Chattanooga mayor, was just re-elected to a second term.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., got a 56 percent approval rating, but Tennessee's nine-member congressional delegation received just 21 percent approval. On the other hand, 52 percent of voters liked what the General Assembly is doing.

But 74 percent prefer that their elected leaders in Nashville and Washington "work with members of the opposing party even if it means they have to compromise on some of their values and priorities."

Twenty-two percent said the officeholders should pursue their own values and priorities.

"Tennesseans are reasonably pragmatic," Geer observed. "They want problems solved." They have more faith in state government and the private sector and "not a lot" in Washington, he noted.