Haslam: I’m not passing the buck on Medicaid expansion, just waiting for the next step

Gov. Bill Haslam is taking issue with the perception that his latest agreement to wait for a federal proposal expanding health care to Tennessee’s working poor amounts to him passing the buck, reports Andrea Zelinski.

“Somehow this has been phrased as me saying ‘Ok, we give up. You all do something.’ It was more of saying, ‘Let’s you all take the next cut of what you think will work,’” Haslam told reporters Wednesday.

After nearly a year of ongoing discussions, Haslam said he met with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius multiple times over the weekend to discuss what kind of plan the two can assemble that meets federal guidelines and could win the blessing of the state’s Republican supermajority in the legislature.

“It wasn’t me saying, ‘OK, you all propose something to us.’ It was her saying, and us together saying, ‘OK, let’s have them take a cut at what they think will work and we’ll use that as the next step.’”

…When asked, the governor said he is not trying to set up the federal government’s proposal to be shot down as not good enough.

“All I can do is make my best effort to get something out of Washington that I think will pass, then it’s my job to convince 50 in one house and 17 in the other,” he said. “I think if we can work out a plan that is more consumer driven, and yet still covers more people, the argument to legislators would be this is a good thing for the state and for the country long term, if we can get there.”

The governor said he has no timeline for when he expects to know whether a deal is possible between his office and HHS.