Haslam says he’ll ‘probably’ submit a Medicaid expansion plan this fall

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he will “probably” submit a proposal for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee to federal officials sometime this fall, though giving no specifics.

From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:
“I think we’ll probably go to them sometime this fall with a plan … that we think makes sense for Tennessee,” the Republican told reporters
Haslam’s statements on Thursday came in response to reporters’ questions following a Legislative Plaza rally by the state NAACP and other advocates.

The 40 to 50 participants castigated the governor and Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the state Senate speaker, for refusing to expand the program.

“Governor, do the right thing, do the moral thing,” urged Walter Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, who joined Tennessee NAACP President Gloria Sweet-Love and other advocates in a rally on the Legislative Plaza.

Lower-income people are suffering as are hospitals, which had anticipated the money, advocates said.

Asked by reporters about the comments, Haslam revealed he spoke earlier this week with Burwell and was already working to schedule a meeting with her.

Haslam said what’s changed is his administration can now follow the experience of other states where governors, many of them Republicans, have obtained approval for waivers of traditional Medicaid rules.

“One of the things we’re able to do now is look and say well they said yes to this with this state, no to that … so we’re kind of learning through that whole process as well,” Haslam said.

From The Tennessean:
The governor said he wants to do what “works financially for the state long term.” He said he talked to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell by phone this week and hopes to talk to her in person in Washington as soon as a meeting can be arranged.

…Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, (said), “We’re very pleased if it’s true. We are very anxious to see what the plan is and see if we can help him to get it approved.”

Haslam made the comments to reporters after the state chapter of the NAACP and other advocates for health care staged an event urging the governor to act. About 50 protesters gathered on the War Memorial Plaza across the street from the state Capitol.

…Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said she hopes action follows the latest comments from Haslam.

“It’s urgent that the governor submit a serious plan to accept federal funds to expand health coverage for Tennesseans,” Johnson said. “The consequences of delay are devastating for both the health-care infrastructure we all reply upon and for hard-working Tennesseans.

“As we wait for a plan, Tennesseans lose $2.7 million a day. We can’t get that back. Meanwhile, other governors of both parties have implemented plans that strengthen their states and give their citizens the peace of mind only health coverage can provide.”

Pennsylvania on Thursday became the 27th state to expand its Medicaid program. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed to a plan that lets private insurers administer Medicaid-funded coverage that adheres to Medicaid’s existing rules.

Further, from WPLN:
“It’s nice to say, ‘let’s put politics aside.’ But at the end of the day, you also have to get it passed the legislature. So you better be able to get something that you can get 50 votes in one house, and 17 in the other,” Haslam told reporters Thursday.

Haslam’s announcement to send federal officials the state’s own expansion proposal follows the governor’s request that U.S. Health and Human Service officials send Tennessee a recommended course of action.

“They never really came back with anything, so we’re proceeding,” Haslam said.