Bill requires legislator approval of any Medicaid expansion (just as Haslam promised)

A bill to flatly prohibit Gov. Bill Haslam from Medicaid expansion has been amended to instead require only that he get the Legislature’s approval before doing so – just as the governor has promised he will.

With the softening amendment in place, the measure (HB937) was approved on a 6-2 party-line vote last week by the House Insurance and Banking subcommittee. Leslie Hafner, Haslam’s lead legislative liaison, told the panel that the governor has no objections to the amended version because it “mirrors what he told you.”

As amended, the bill by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, says any expansion of Medicaid, operated as TennCare in Tennessee, must be approved by both the House and Senate in a joint resolution. Haslam had said last year that he would ask the Legislature’s approval before any Medicaid expansion, but had indicated that could be done through the state’s budget bill rather than as a separate resolution.

Haslam announced last year that he would not seek expansion under current conditions, but would seek modifications from the federal government and might come up with a “Tennessee plan” for expansion later. To date, he has not – though the governor said last week he expects to discuss the subject with federal officials during a trip to Washington for a meeting of governors later this month.

Democrats on the subcommittee objected to the bill. Rep. Joann Favors, D-Chattanooga, noted that if Haslam comes up with a plan while the Legislature is not in session, the bill will require that the Legislature either be summoned back to Nashville for an expensive special session or forgo federal funding for expansion until regular session resumes – perhaps a period of months. She compared the situation to the state refusing federal emergency funding following a natural disaster unless the Legislature was in session to approve.

Favors said the state has been losing $2.5 million per day in federal funds since Jan. 1 by not expanding Medicaid.

Durham said he disagreed with “thinking that we should grab every federal dollar available,” but the issue at hand was simply setting up procedure and debate should not get into the merits of expansion.

The bill now goes to the full Insurance and Banking Committee.

Note: Americans for Prosperity news release on the measure is below.

News release from Americans for Prosperity, Tennessee:
Headline: AFP Applauds Stop ObamaCare Act as it Clears First Hurdle
NASHVILLE – Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee (AFPTN) is pleased to announce the passage of Representative Jeremy Durham’s HB 937 over the first hurdle in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee 6-2. 

The bill prohibits Medicaid Expansion as mandated by ObamaCare unless authorized by the Tennessee legislature. The United States Supreme Court ruled the mandatory expansion of Medicaid in the states as unconstitutional.

Rep. Durham stated, “This bill ensures the Tennessee legislature has the final say on whether or not we learn from our past, exercise fiscal responsibility, and refuse to put our state in another financial crisis by expanding Medicaid pursuant to ObamaCare.”

“It seems ideal we would pass a measure protecting Tennessee’s economy prior to a visit by President Obama touting our fiscal well-being as a state,” said AFPTN State Director Andrew Ogles. “Obama’s policies have eliminated jobs across the country, driven down wages, and served as a hindrance to our nation’s economy.  Today, Tennessee took a stand against Obama’s failed policies and over-bearing federal mandates.”