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VOL. 39 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 26, 2015

Supporters seek to revive Tennessee Medicaid expansion plan

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Supporters of a failed plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee met Monday to renew an effort to try to pass it after a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold health insurance subsidies.

Tennessee Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper was among state lawmakers and community leaders at a news conference in support of Insure Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to extend coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

The proposal failed in a special legislative session in February, was then revived during the regular session - only to be killed again in a Senate committee.

However, Cooper and state lawmakers attending Monday's event called on their fellow colleagues to take up the plan again, particularly after last Thursday's ruling by the Supreme Court upholding health insurance subsidies in states that do not operate their own insurance exchanges.

The ruling means that more than 155,000 Tennesseans who use the subsidies will not lose their health insurance. Proponents of Haslam's plan say the decision also justifies expanding Medicaid in Tennessee.

"Now that the Supreme Court has given us the green light, it's time for the Tennessee Legislature to move forward and pass Insure Tennessee," Cooper said.

Some lawmakers who support the plan are calling for another special session to address it before legislators convene in January.

Republican Sen. Richard Briggs of Knoxville supports the plan and was among those at the news conference. Briggs said another special session is unlikely, but believes constituents who really want the plan may be able to change the minds of Republican lawmakers against it.

"What drives things is what ... their constituents think," Briggs said. "And I'm hoping they'll come around."

Michele Johnson is executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. She said some people don't fully understand Insure Tennessee, which is why she's helping organize an effort to go into communities and educate people about the plan so they advocate for it if they want it.

"What we're finding is that folks of every political party ... don't understand Insure Tennessee," Johnson said. "But when they understand it, they are absolutely furious it hasn't passed."

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Middle Tennessee on Wednesday to discuss health care. According to media reports, the president plans to discuss how the nation can continue to build on progress made under the Affordable Care Act, which has helped more than 16 million Americans gain health insurance.

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