On the ‘Stop Obamacare Act’ – aka ‘Handcuff Haslam’

There’s a rather striking difference in these two reaction press releases following the House vote to require legislative approval of any Medicaid expansion in Tennessee is hereby presented. (Previous post just below or HERE.)

One is from Americans For Prosperity, a Washington-based conservative lobbying organization which gets funding from the famous Koch brothers and describes itself as advocating “public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.”

The other is from the House Democratic Caucus.

News release from Americans for Prosperity
NASHVILLE – Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee (AFPTN) applauds the passage of House bill 937, the Stop Obamacare Act.

The sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Durham stated: “This legislation ensures that the legislature will have the ability to block any proposed Medicaid Expansion pursuant to Obamacare. The bill also provides that any expansion proposal must go through the regular legislative process and cannot be placed into the state budget.”

Tennessee was one of a handful of states still debating whether or not to expand Medicaid. While the lure of matching federal dollars was enough to ensnare other states into taking the bait of this failed program, the Tennessee legislature was able to simply dodge the trap. Requiring any expansion of Medicaid to be passed by the legislature ensures the failure of future attempts to expand.

AFPTN State Director Andrew Ogles released the following statement:

“The conservative majority in both houses is committed to putting the fiscal future of the state of Tennessee ahead of the President’s empty promises. The passage of this bill sends a clear message to lazy bureaucrats in D.C. – If you won’t stop Obama and his liberal agenda in D.C., we will in Tennessee. I commend Rep. Durham, Sen. Kelsey, and those legislators who took a stand against Obama and condemn the actions of those legislators trying to bankrupt the state.”
The Senate version of this bill is expected to be considered in the Senate next week.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Republicans voted today to send a message to Governor Haslam: “We don’t trust you.” The House voted 69-24 to block Governor Haslam from using the budget or his executive powers to implement a “Tennessee plan” for expanding Medicaid, if one is ever produced. 

“To tie a Governor’s hands while he is negotiating with the federal government is, in my opinion, counterproductive. It’s the ultimate sign of mistrust, especially coming from a member of your own party,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Instead of making it harder for hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans to access quality, affordable health care coverage, we should be searching for areas of commonality and deciding how best we can move forward together.”

House Democrats offered multiple amendments to HB937 by Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin). 

•    Amendment 3 by Leader Fitzhugh requires the Commissioner of Finance and Administration to submit a Medicaid waiver for the “Tennessee plan” by July 1, 2014. 

•    Amendment 4 by Leader Fitzhugh allows for the Governor to expand Medicaid if he successfully negotiates a waiver. Requires the plan to be voted on the first day the General Assembly reconvenes. 

•    Amendment 5 by Leader Fitzhugh expands TennCare for as long as it is 100% funded by the federal government. 

•    Amendment 6 by Rep. Stewart would give the Governor 30 days after HB 937 becomes law to provide a full and detailed written description of his “Tennessee plan” to expand Medicaid. 

•    Amendment 7 by Rep. Stewart requires the Division of TennCare to submit a quarterly report to the general assembly that has a county-by-county analysis of the cost of rejecting Medicaid expansion. 

•    Amendment 8 by Rep. Love re-establishes the Tennessee Health Equity Commission which was disbanded by the Republicans in 2011. 

“Governor Haslam is a businessman and, like many of us, has shown that he works better under a deadline,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “While I respect that the Governor likes to be deliberative, too many Tennesseans are being left without health care while Governor Haslam tinkers around the edges. That is why we offered an amendment that would have given the Governor a more concrete deadline to work out the details on his Tennessee plan.” 

Earlier in the day, Michael Collins with the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Governor Haslam will stop claiming to work on a Tennessee Plan and instead has asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to produce one for him. 

“Governor Haslam appears to have repeatedly misled the public into believing there is a plan to expand Medicaid, but in reality, one does not exist,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). “Now, after a year of dragging his feet, we find out today that he has asked Secretary Sebelius to come up with a ‘Tennessee plan’ for him. The dereliction of duty by the Governor on this has been astounding. Hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans have been waiting on health care; instead, all they’ve received from Governor Haslam is more excuses.”

Today marks the 55th day without Medicaid expansion in Tennessee, resulting in the state losing an average of $2.5 million a day, or $137,500,000 to date, in federal funds that could have gone towards giving working men and women access to quality, affordable health care.