NASHVILLE - More than 300 Tea Party activists rallied in front of the state Capitol at noon today, urging Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to reject creating a state-run health insurance exchange envisioned under federal health care reforms.
Haslam is one of 10 governors who have yet to decide whether or not to set up their own state Internet-based marketplace to help lower-income residents find insurance or let the federal government do it instead.
The governor has said he believes Tennessee can run an exchange better and less expensively than a federal plan. If given enough flexibility by President Barack Obama and if the administration's overall program to workable, it could make sense to do so, Haslam says.
Tea Party activists today did their best to dissuade him. Among attendees was Mark West, president of the Chattanooga Tea Party.
"This is an opportunity for the state to say no to Obamacare and push the whole burden back on the Feds," West said. "Our perspective is if Obamacare is such a great thing, let the Feds implement it instead of forcing it on the states."
West called it a "joke to say it's going to be a state health care exchange" because the federal government will really be in control.
"We'd like him [Haslam] to stand up like approximately 20 other governors across the U.S. who've said no to Obamacare and a state-funded healthcare exchange," West said. "So far, though, it would appear that he's vascillating or leaning in the direction of implementing it."
Haslam will have to decide by Dec. 14 whether to proceed. Even if he does, it would require approval from the GOP-led General Assembly where members of the governor's own party have raised objections.