Perhaps the most interesting part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee speech Monday night – relating a conversation with President Obama – was a late addition and not included in the prepared text distributed to media.
The governor said that, in a meeting with governors, the president was asked by a Republican why he did not make Medicaid a block grant program – just giving states the federal money and not imposing rules on how its spent.
“In, I guess, a moment of true candor,” Haslam said, Obama looked at the governor and said, “Because I don’t trust you to take care of the least of these.”
As the next gubernatorial speaker, Haslam said, he told Obama that “with all due respect,” Republican governors ran “so that we can take care of the least of these. I think it’s one of our most solemn obligations of government.”
“I’ve realized it’s not just the president that thinks that. As a Republican elected leader, I feel like we owe the country answers as to what we would do about health care… For too long, we’ve said what we don’t like — mainly Obamacare. Well, this is a chance to show what we would do.”
“This is also an issue about who we are. My faith doesn’t allow me to walk on the other side of the road and ignore a need that can be met. Particularly in this case, when the need is Tennesseans who have life-threatening situations without access to health care…. when the need can be met like this one can, without cost to our state, with money that our state is currently being taxed for and is sent elsewhere, and with a plan that can help answer one our nation’s biggest issues.”
WPLN reports that reference to the Gospel wasn’t lost on lawmakers. But several, like Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), said their obligation is to constituents.
“That’s in the Bible, not the Constitution,” he said of the Good Samaritan. “It’s not a political mandate.”
Many GOP lawmakers say they’re concerned about the financial impact on the state, even though hospitals and the federal government have committed to cover the full cost of expansion.
… Asked if the governor’s speech had moved Insure Tennessee any closer to passage, Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) said no.
“You know, as I walked through the hallways, the members were getting up and leaving,” he said. “I didn’t hear one single member say, ‘Wow, I’ve changed my mind.’