Prepared text of Gov. Haslam’s speech to the 109th General Assembly (Note: He added some interesting stuff) at the outset of a special session on a proposed “Insure Tennessee” Monday evening:
Lt. Gov. Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, and members of the Tennessee General Assembly:
Let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to come before you as you begin this Special Session. Calling a Special Session, which I’ve never done before, is not something I take lightly. I understand the difficulty of the subject we will be discussing. Issues surrounding health care are complex, and the politics can seem difficult, but there are few challenges facing our state or our country today as great as those presented by our broken health care system. I just don’t believe that we can sit back and do nothing.
It might be worth it to remind ourselves how we got here. In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. It was a massive piece of legislation that passed on a totally partisan basis. It was incredibly controversial then, and today, over five years later, it remains controversial.
In June of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a question about the legality of the Affordable Care Act. In a somewhat surprising ruling, they determined that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional but that the federal government could not force states to expand their Medicaid programs. Every state was left to decide on its own whether or not to cover the newly eligible population. While some states immediately decided that they would, others quickly said no.
In Tennessee, we took time to evaluate our options to find the right answer for our state. In March of 2013, almost two years ago, I was in this chamber to tell you that Tennessee would not expand our Medicaid program. Expanding a broken system doesn’t make sense. But, I also didn’t think that flat out saying no to accepting federal dollars that Tennesseans are paying for, that are going to other states, and that could cover more Tennesseans who truly need insurance made much sense either.