Gov. Bill Haslam said he wants to take advantage of the federal government’s extended deadline to decide whether Tennessee should set up it’s own health insurance exchange.
Haslam said he wants the extra time to await answers from President Barack Obama’s administration about details of the exchanges before making a decision that will likely be challenged by members of the General Assembly.
“I understand there is a lot of passion and uncertainty about the health care law, and I share that frustration,” Haslam said in an emailed statement today while attending the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas.
“As governor, I believe it is my job to put emotions aside and to make the tough decisions on the serious issues that impact Tennesseans. That is what I'm working hard to do,” he said.
Federal officials yesterday gave governors an extra month to decide whether to build their own exchanges, which operate like online marketplaces for people and businesses to shop for health insurance. States that opt out will give ownership of the exchanges to the federal government to build and operate.
While the exchange is required under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, governors across the country were supposed to decide by today whether their state would set up and run the exchange itself or if it would leave that responsibility to the federal government. A handful of governors have already refused to set up the exchange.
Haslam has hinted he would prefer the state run the exchange itself, although the decision would require approval by the Republican-led legislature, which appears split on the issue.
Democrats are urging the governor to “rip the Band-Aid off” and make a decision now, saying Haslam should opt for the state to run the exchange itself.
“Now is not the time for more delays, now is the time to create an open process that brings all interested parties to the table,” said Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, minority leader in the state House of Representatives.
The deadline extension came at the request of the Republican Governors Association this week.