Reaction to Health Care Exchange Decision: Democrats Disappointed, Republicans Happy

Here’s some comments emailed to media on Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to reject a state-operated Health Care Exchange.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Governor Bill Haslam announced today that Tennessee would not be setting up a state-based health exchange as called for under the Affordable Care Act. His decision will result in the federal government taking over responsibility for creating a health insurance marketplace for Tennessee consumers and small businesses.
“I’m disappointed to see the Governor pandering to the far right of his party rather than doing what is best for the people of Tennessee,” said Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “I would hate to know that I had a 70 percent approval rating statewide, and couldn’t get my own party to support my initiatives.”
State-based exchanges have enjoyed bi-partisan support historically. Former Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wrote in an op-ed recently that it would be “best for Tennessee to develop its own exchange because exchanges are an innovative, market-driven strategy, which foster competition, choice, cost-savings and quality among insurers.”
“It is disappointing that our Governor found it too difficult to do what 23 other states have begun to do – implement their own health insurance exchange,” said Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “In the end, if Governor Haslam was unable to convince his party to reject partisan politics and do the right thing, perhaps it was best for him to allow the federal government to begin setting up an exchange for him.”
While Governor Haslam’s decision to leave health care exchanges to the federal government takes this issue off the table, Democrats will continue to push for Tennessee to participate in the federally funded Medicaid expansion that would cover an additional 330,000 souls.
“While the Governor is able to fall back on the federal government to handle these health care exchanges, he won’t be able to shirk the responsibility for participating in the Medicaid expansion,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “If we don’t participate in the new Medicaid program, we’ll be leaving $10.5 billion in federal dollars on the table. Punting on this issue would hurt Tennessee businesses, working families, and rural hospitals.”

News release from House Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada (R–Franklin) released the following statement after learning of Governor Bill Haslam’s decision to forgo the implementation of an ObamaCare exchange in Tennessee:
“With this decision, Governor Haslam proved–once again–he is continuously looking out for the best interests of Tennesseans. I applaud the Governor for taking a deliberate approach and gathering all available facts and perspectives about this complex issue.
“It is readily apparent the federal government is making up rules for ObamaCare as it goes along. To have tied Tennessee to that albatross would have undermined our state in a number of ways. Ultimately, the costs and constitutional concerns associated with government-run exchanges were just too burdensome.
“Democrats, who are on the outside looking in and have an insatiable appetite for government largesse, will try and paint this as a political decision by the Governor. That could not be further from the truth. The fact is, on this day, the Governor stood up for our Tennessee principles and all of us should appreciate his decision.”

Statement from House Speaker Beth Harwell:
As I have stated many times before, I am vehemently opposed to Obamacare and the mandates that come along with it. The decisions regarding healthcare are best left to each Tennessean and their doctor–not a massive bureaucracy that is sure to send this country further into debt.
The federal government has not been forthcoming with details and information on the specifics of how to comply with setting up a state exchange, leading Governor Haslam to conclude that is not the best route for Tennessee, and I agree. Tennessee is fortunate to have a governor who thoughtfully arrived at this decision, and I appreciate his work on this issue.

Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey on his Facebook page:
I applaud Governor Haslam’s refusal to partner with the federal government on health insurance exchanges. The Obama administration has ignored questions, instituted arbitrary deadlines and made rules and regulations that change from day to day.
It would be dereliction of our duty as public servants to take on as a partner a federal government that is clearly out of its depth. I’m proud to stand with Governor Haslam as we continue to find ways to minimize the impact of this insidious federal law on the citizens of Tennessee.

News release from Tennessee Health Care Campaign:
After two years of studying options and over $9 million in taxpayer funds, Governor Bill Haslam announced today that his administration would not pursue a state-based health insurance exchange.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that exchanges be implemented in each state as a way for consumers to purchase private health insurance. Similar to websites such as Expedia or Orbitz, the exchange is meant to be an online marketplace that gives the consumer greater control, more choice, improved quality, increased transparency, and much needed competition in the insurance marketplace. If income allows, individuals can take advantage of federal subsidies to help with their monthly premiums. The exchange will be a “one-stop-shop” where anyone in need of health insurance can go and find affordable options. The ACA allows each state to opt out of setting up an exchange and allowing the federal government to do so.
“While not a complete surprise, we are a little disappointed that the governor did not seize this opportunity to provide state-based solutions to a broken system that does not work for everyone,” commented Brad Palmertree, Interim Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, a nonprofit health care consumer advocacy organization. “Contrary to some of the rhetoric, declining to run an exchange does not keep Obamacare from coming into Tennessee; it merely cedes any ability or control we could have had in the decision-making process to the federal government.”
This is not the only decision facing the administration regarding implementation of the ACA. Because of the Supreme Court ruling in June, Tennessee now has the option – not the requirement – to expand its Medicaid (TennCare) program. “The issue of Medicaid expansion has taken center stage for us. We knew the exchange would be implemented, regardless of state decisions. But those who need insurance the most are usually the ones who cannot afford it. With dozens of local hospitals at stake, the state needs to take advantage of the 100% federally funded expansion of Medicaid. Otherwise, many hospitals will face closure as their uncompensated care rises and federal subsidies disappear.”
Tennessee Health Care Campaign hopes that Governor Haslam will provide the leadership needed to implement meaningful health reform so that Tennesseans can be productive, contributing members of their community without worrying about getting sick and not being able to pay for it.

News release from from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday the state will not operate a state-based healthcare exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act. Haslam made the following statement on the issue:
“Tennessee faces a decision this week about health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m not a fan of the law. The more I know, the more harmful I think it will be for small businesses and costly for state governments and the federal government. It does nothing to address the cost of health care in our country. It only expands a broken system. That’s why I’ve opposed it from the beginning and had hoped we would be successful in court and at the ballot box this year.
“Now we’re faced with the fact that the law remains, and it requires every state to participate in an insurance exchange. Our decision is whether the state or federal government should run it, and the deadline for that decision is Friday.
“I’ve said that I think Tennessee could run a state exchange cheaper and better, and my natural inclination is to keep the federal government out of our business as much as possible. What our administration has been working to understand is whether we’d have the flexibility for it to be a true state-based exchange, how the data exchange would work, and if it would work.
“Since the presidential election, we’ve received 800-plus pages of draft rules from the federal government, some of which actually limit state decisions about running an exchange more than we expected.
“The Obama administration has set an aggressive timeline to implement exchanges, while there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the process will actually work. What has concerned me more and more is that they seem to be making this up as they go.
“In weighing all of the information we currently have, I informed the federal government today that Tennessee will not run a state-based exchange. If conditions warrant in the future and it makes sense at a later date for Tennessee to run the exchange, we would consider that as an option at the appropriate time.
“This decision comes after months of consideration and analysis. It is a business decision based on what is best for Tennesseans with the information we have now that we’ve pressed hard to receive from Washington. If this were a political decision, it would’ve been easy, and I would’ve made it a long time ago.
“I believe my job is to get to the right answer. That’s what Tennesseans expect of me and elected me to do.”

From the Tennessee Medical Association:
Attributable to Wiley Robinson, MD, President:
“The Tennessee Medical Association believes that since the Affordable Care Act requires our state to have an insurance exchange, the job would best be performed at the state level rather than by a federal government agency. We expressed this to Governor Haslam this summer during discussions with him and his staff. However, given the scarcity of details provided by the federal government, his decision to forgo a state-run exchange is certainly understandable and we support the Governor’s decision.
“The Affordable Care Act will continue to affect the cost, access and quality of health care to Tennesseans in the foreseeable future. As the professional association for more than 8,000 physicians in our state, the TMA will continue to participate in every debate and discussion that impacts our ability to provide quality medical care to the citizens of Tennessee.”

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