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Craig Fitzhugh

Most of the 26 Democrats in the Tennessee House will support Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed plan to provide insurance coverage to nearly 300,000 low-income residents, the House Democratic leader says.

In a statement, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh said the Democratic Caucus met Thursday to discuss Insure Tennessee. And while the caucus  signaled its support, Fitzhugh used the opportunity to blame Republicans for delay that he said harmed the state's citizens.

"For the last two-years, House Democrats have fought hard to extend health care coverage to the 330,000 Tennesseans who fall in the Medicaid gap. These are able-bodied, working men and women who make too little to qualify for a subsidy on the federal exchange, but earn too much for our traditional Medicaid program.

"After 349 days and $872,500,000 lost, Governor Haslam put forward Insure Tennessee as a conservative counter-proposal to traditional Medicaid expansion. Churches and hospitals, business leaders and community activists, chambers of commerce & workers organizations have all expressed their support for this plan.

"Insure Tennessee is not traditional Medicaid expansion. This approach is much less generous in terms of coverage and benefits than House Democrats would prefer, but we understand the numbers. While members of both parties still have concerns, we feel strongly that they can be alleviated by giving this legislation a full and fair hearing. Whatever political differences may exist, we can all agree that the lives of the 200,000 Tennesseans this plan covers far outweigh any objection raised by special interest groups."

Fitzhugh said Haslam's "market-based" plan is "not perfect," but added, "the time has come for Tennessee to address this issue once and for all."

Haslam has said getting his proposal passed in the Tennessee General Assembly will depend on Democratic support.

A special legislative session on Insure Tennessee will begin Monday.

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