Tennessee Expands Medicaid, Gets Permission To Not Call It Obamacare
Well, here's a bit of nice time: Tennessee has decided to opt in to the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid after all. Of course Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is being very careful to depict the move as a victory over the oppressive federal government: it's a pilot plan for a program called "Insure Tennessee," and it's only set to run two years. No way is this an embrace of the Big Government socialist takeover of healthcare. Sure, it's going to use federal and state funds to provide coverage for healthcare for low-income Tennesseans, but it's completely different from Medicaid expansion:
"We made the decision in Tennessee nearly two years ago not to expand traditional Medicaid," Haslam said. "This is an alternative approach that forges a different path and is a unique Tennessee solution. Our approach is responsible and reasonable, and I truly believe that it can be a catalyst to fundamentally changing health care in Tennessee," Haslam said.
At a press conference, Haslam also explained that he isn't the one who's changed; rather, he's won some very important concessions from the feds that will make it OK for more than 160,000 low-income Tennesseans to get healthcare without any icky worries that they may suddenly have turned Canadian in their swimsuit areas:
"Some might ask why is a conservative Republican announcing we're going to do this. No one has ever argued that we're going to end Medicaid," Haslam said at a press conference announcing the plan.
"The discussion has always been how do we do that in a responsible way," he added. "It's our hope that this opens the door in the future for innovation within our existing Medicaid program."
The new program is totally different from the ACA's Medicaid expansion, in that it gives Tennesseans a choice between something that looks a lot like traditional Medicaid, and a voucher program that would help pay for employer-provided insurance.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was quick to ladle on the this-isn't-Obamacare sauce, explaining:
"When a state has an opportunity to take power away from the federal government and institute real conservative reform, that is an opportunity that must be taken seriously," Ramsey said. "Governor Haslam has negotiated a deal which returns tax dollars back to Tennessee while using conservative principles to bring health insurance to more Tennesseans.
It is not clear at press time whether the new program would cover treatment for exposure to slightly tainted word salad.
[TPM / Tennessean]
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