Republican bill would prohibit Tennessee from expanding Medicaid

Republican bill would prohibit Tennessee from expanding Medicaid

January 25th, 2013 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Tennessee state representative Richard Floyd

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - A Republican House member and 21 colleagues on Thursday introduced legislation that would bar Tennessee from participating in the expansion of Medicaid called for under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, said Tennessee taxpayers "cannot afford the long-term financial burden of expanding our Medicaid rolls."

The freshman lawmaker said, "Due to the extreme uncertainty surrounding the federal fiscal situation, it is increasingly important that we as legislators exercise fiscal responsibility and not accept federal funds to expand programs that we're not prepared to fund ourselves."

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam remains undecided on the expansion, which is estimated to affect 200,000 low-income adults.

"The governor is a fiscal conservative and understands what this would mean to the financial situation of our state," Durham said. "I suspect he's just doing his homework."

Durham said he introduced the legislation because of bill filing deadlines.

"I'm hopeful that he [Haslam] will agree," Durham said.

In upholding the 2010 federal law, the U.S. Supreme Court made it optional for states to expand their Medicaid programs. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, has said Georgia won't.

The federal law would expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years before gradually scaling its share to 90 percent in 2019.

TennCare is Tennessee's version of Medicaid.

Co-sponsors include Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.