With a self-imposed deadline looming to decide by the end of the month whether to expand Medicaid, Haslam’s administration is asking lawmakers on both sides of the issue to stand down.
Letters from the governor’s office Monday cited “philosophical reasons” to opposing both Democrat and Republican bills to mandate the direction the state takes on expanding the state’s Medicaid program known as TennCare.
“The administration understands that this is an important issue to you and is cognizant of your efforts. The administration, however, respectfully disagrees with this legislation in its current form,” read the form letters signed by Leslie Hafner, director of legislation.
The letter asked sponsors to “please consider taking no further action” on the legislation until the governor’s administration can touch base about its concerns.
Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) is sponsoring House Bill 937 in the House to ban an expansion. He said he would still push the legislation forward, despite the governor’s request he hold it.
“I’m a little bit disappointed it was flagged the day before the Senate vote, two days before the first House vote, but I understand his reservations,” Durham said. “I hope we still get to have a good conversation about it.”
Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), who is sponsoring Senate Bill 604 to require the state expand the Medicaid program to more people, plans to move forward with his bill as well, according to a spokesman.
The federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the costs for the expansion for three years, then scale back funding to 90 percent.
Opponents of the expansion argue there’s no guarantee the federal government will keep its financial promises and don’t want to put Tennessee in a position to add new people to the TennCare rolls only to kick them off a few years later.
Fans of expanding the program say the move would give coverage to roughly 300,000 more people. Advocates also say hospitals would risk layoffs and rural hospitals could face closure if Haslam decides against expansion.