Haslam’s Sneaky Expansion

March 27, 2013

By: Nicole Kaeding

This morning, Governor Haslam addressed the General Assembly to announce his decision regarding Medicaid expansion. The press is reporting, per Governor Haslam’s wishes, that Tennessee won’t take part of the optional Medicaid expansion, but a closer read of Haslam’s own press release shows this to be false. Haslam is expanding Medicaid just under another name.

Medicaid is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income individuals, traditionally reserved for children, pregnant women and the disabled. Under the President’s health care law, Washington tried to forcibly expanded Medicaid to include all individuals below 138% of the federal poverty level—approximately $32,000 for a family of four. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in June that states must be given an option whether to expand this costly, broken program.

For more information regarding Medicaid expansion and why it’s a bad idea, click here.

Given all of these arguments, Haslam seemed to adopt the right policy rhetoric by telling the General Assembly that Tennessee won’t expand Medicaid. He acknowledged in his remarks the high costs for Tennessee–$2 billion by 2022 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation–and that Medicaid fails to provide quality health care to its patients.

But, Haslam’s press release continues by saying that Tennessee will work with the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate real health care reform for Tennessee families, but his description of reform sounds remarkably similar to Medicaid expansion.

The Tennessee plan will “leverage available federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for Tennesseans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level who don’t have access to health insurance, which would translate to 175,000 more insured Tennesseans.”

That sure sounds like Medicaid expansion. It uses the 100% federal reimbursement for three years under the disguise of “leveraging.” It exactly copies the President’s health care law to provide health insurance for everyone—paid for by taxpayers– below 138% of the federal poverty level.

And in fact, Haslam is simply copying the flawed expansion model being pushed by Governor Beebe and the legislature in Arkansas. The Arkansas-style expansion will result in even higher costs for state and federal taxpayers because of the higher reimbursements for providers and additional coverage requirements on plans sold via the President’s health insurance exchanges.

Leveraging the 100% federal reimbursement isn’t reform; it’s milking taxpayers for political benefit. Tennesseans desire better than Governor Haslam’s doublespeak on expansion.

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