NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday urged fellow Republicans to look beyond political considerations as they prepare to vote on a revived version of his Insure Tennessee proposal.
Haslam told reporters that he spent the weekend talking to fellow Republicans on the state Senate Commerce Committee who are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.
"We've known all along this would be tough," Haslam said. "But I think what we're saying is: 'Give us a full hearing, and listen to the real arguments instead of some of the political arguments people are making.'"
Under the governor's two-year pilot program, hospitals would cover the $74 million state share to draw down $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid money. A similar proposal was defeated in a special legislative session last month, but a renewed effort introduced by a freshman Democratic senator cleared the Senate Health Committee on a 6-2 vote last week.
While GOP lawmakers in recent years have been happy to approve hospital fees to draw down billions of federal dollars to support their operations, many have balked at the most recent plan largely on the basis of its links to President Barack Obama's reviled health care law.
Each of the eight Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee voted in favor of the last two years' hospital assessment fee bills that have raised $900 million in state money to draw down $1.67 billion in federal money.
"It's hard on this one to get past the politics," Haslam said. "That being said, I think people do get it and understand how important it is.
"So our job is to show them that the politics are actually favorable for Republicans," the governor said. "People are in favor of this plan."