Harwell: Legislature will ‘re-visit’ Insure TN

House Speaker Beth Harwell said Monday that the state legislature likely will revisit Medicaid expansion in January but lawmakers still have major concerns that likely will keep it from passing, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Harwell said she believes Gov. Bill Haslam is leaning toward not asking the legislature in 2016 to approve the state’s first gasoline tax hike in 26 years, although he toured the state this summer outlining the need for more transportation funding.

But she thinks his Medicaid expansion plan, Insure Tennessee, may get another look. “I think we will revisit heath care again. I’m not telling you that Insure Tennessee has some magic bullet to be passed this year but I do think there will be continued discussion.”

Harwell said Republicans… have “legitimate concerns and I think if we’re going to see something passed, we’re going to have to address them.”

She said those concerns include caps on enrollment in the expansion program, designed under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover more uninsured working poor. “We were told it would be a program for about 280,000. The reality is there are about 400,000 people who qualify,” she said.

…And the speaker said that while Tennessee hospitals heavily support Medicaid expansion because they will benefit financially, many doctors in her district called her in opposition.

“I would have liked to have seen a disenrollment plan on the front end, with some kind of safety net built in because you can’t take (coverage) away from people without a transition plan. I think what would be palatable to a supermajority is if this were given to us in a block grant and we could devise a program the way we wanted without federal strings attached. I do think we could, given the expertise in health care in Nashville and Memphis, we could design a program that would be more cost effective.”