Gov. Bill Haslam is undecided, at last report, about whether to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and block Medicaid expansion that was initially required under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Two Republican lawmakers say they’re moving ahead with plans to block the expansion, contrary to the position pushed by Tennessee hospitals.
Here’s today’s news release from the Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), October 29, 2012 — State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) said today they will introduce legislation to prevent expansion of the Tennessee Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare.” Kelsey and Durham said they will file the bill the day after the 108th General Assembly is elected in November.
Senator Kelsey has two years remaining in his four year term, and Mr. Durham is unopposed for the District 65 seat in the State House of Representatives. The legislation states Tennessee “shall not establish, facilitate, implement or participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
“Unlike Washington, Tennessee balances its budget every year,” said Senator Kelsey. “Tennessee taxpayers cannot afford this expansion of spending. The federal government may be promising money today, but with sixteen trillion dollars of debt, those funds will not be there tomorrow.”
As drafted, the Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid coverage from low-income adults with children to all individuals below 133% of the poverty level. A recent study conducted by the University of Tennessee, however, reported the number of uninsured Tennesseans is at its lowest point since 2005. The Affordable Care Act punished states who chose not to expand enrollment with not only loss of the expansion funds but also loss of all Medicaid funds, which amount to almost 20% of the Tennessee budget.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress can deny the expansion funds but not all Medicaid funds. Now states have an option whether or not to expand their Medicaid programs.
Under the Act, Congress promised to pay 100% of the Medicaid expansion funds in the first few years but only 90% of the funds in future years. Given the $16 trillion debt owed by the federal government, it is doubtful that the federal government will fulfill even its 90% promise in future years.
“Tennessee taxpayers simply cannot afford the long-term financial burden of expanding our Medicaid rolls,” said Durham. “This is one of those times in which legislators must exercise fiscal responsibility and tell the federal government, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.'”
A similar sentiment was stated in July by Senator Lamar Alexander: “If I were governor of Tennessee, I would not expand Medicaid as the program is currently run.” Former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen described ObamaCare as “the mother of all unfunded mandates” and said it would cost Tennessee taxpayers over $1 billion in the next five years