Home > Article
VOL. 37 | NO. 13 | Friday, March 29, 2013
Haslam insists Medicaid pursuit no 'fool's errand'
NASHVILLE (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that his ongoing pursuit of a special deal for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee is no "fool's errand" and that an arrangement could still be struck at any time.
The Republican governor said he remains in negotiations with the federal government over his proposal to use $1.4 billion in Medicaid money available under the federal health care overhaul to pay for private coverage for uninsured Tennesseans.
"This wasn't just a 'I'll throw this up as a way to get out of it,'" Haslam told reporters. "I always thought this was a real possibility. But I'm also not ignorant of the fact that what we're trying to do is not the easiest thing in the world. "
Haslam said he has been in discussions with health care providers about ways to decrease coverage costs to the point where the savings would defray the increased costs to the state once the federal government stops paying the entire cost of Medicaid expansion after the first three years.
The failure to reach a deal earlier caused Haslam to exclude the Medicaid expansion money from his budget proposal this year. That decision was met with glee by Republicans in the state, who are largely hostile to President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
But Haslam said that call wasn't the end of the story.
"Some folks will say, well, 'You're off on this quest that really is a fool's errand because there's no way you'll work this out,'" Haslam said. "My argument would be this really is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do this, and shame on us if we don't take this chance to do it."
Haslam said sticking points have included a federal requirement for private plans to cover 100 percent of the benefits that would be available to Medicaid recipients, including transportation. Tennessee also wants to require greater co-pays for things like emergency room visits for routing health problems or failing to choose available generic drugs.
The governor said he spoke with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the weekend. Haslam suggested that an arrangement could still be struck.
"I don't know if we can work this out in a day, a month or a year," he said. "I don't really know."
But Haslam has pledged that he would seek legislative approval for any change in course on Medicaid expansion, which would be a tough sell to the Republican supermajorities in both chambers - especially as leaders hope to adjourn for the year before the end of the month.