Tennessee House Democrats question how hard Haslam pushed 'Tennessee Plan' on Medicaid expansion

Tennessee House Democrats question how hard Haslam pushed 'Tennessee Plan' on Medicaid expansion

March 28th, 2013 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

POLL: Do you agree with Haslam's Medicaid decision?

NASHVILLE - House Democratic leaders this morning questioned just how hard Republican Gov. Bill Haslam pushed his "Tennessee Plan" on Medicaid expansion with the Obama administration before deciding not to pursue it this session.

"I was told they haven't had as much contact as they're saying," Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville told reporters. "I don't know whether it's true or not."

Haslam spokesman said "that's not true," and that the governor had "multiple conversations ... in person and on the phone" with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius.

Smith said TennCare Director Darin Gordon has "had ongoing conversations" with officials both in HHS officials and the departments Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Haslam on Wednesday told lawmakers he would not pursue the Medicaid expansion this session, blaming the Obama administration for resistance to elements of his plan. He said he's not giving up and isn't ruling out calling a special legislative session later this year if he gets what he wants.

The expansion affects an estimated, low-income 181,000 Tennesseans, according to TennCare. Estimates from others say as many as 300,000 Tennesseans could be eligible.

Haslam wants to use the federal Medicaid funds, about $1.4 billion in its first 18 months, to "buy" the Medicaid-expansion group into a federally run exchange where they would could buy from private insurers of their choice.

Ohio and Arkansas are pursuing similar plans. But Haslam wants the Medicaid population to receive the same benefits as others in the exchange, not the Medicaid benefits which in at least some cases are more generous.