Tennessee House Democrats renew Medicaid expansion call, pan GOP block grant effort

The Tennessee State Capitol downtown Nashville is shown in 2000.

NASHVILLE - In a state where nine rural hospitals have already shut their doors and a 10th one plans to close March 1, Tennessee House Democrats said Monday "it's time now" for Gov. Bill Lee and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature to expand Medicaid to some 280,000 low-income people.

Democrats brushed aside as a waste of time a GOP-sponsored bill that would launch the state on an effort to secure a federal block grant for its Medicaid program, operated here as TennCare.

Senate Republican leaders, who have consistently opposed Medicaid expansion under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, said last week their block grant effort might eventually lead to a program to help some working poor with insurance premiums under their employers' health plans.

"I think it's an idea that's being bandied about on their side to make it look like they actually care," charged Rep.