NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Gov. Bill Haslam has announced that he won't pursue expanding the state's Medicaid program to help cover the uninsured as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Haslam told a joint session of state lawmakers Wednesday that that he decided not to do that because he prefers a third option to use federal money to subsidize private insurance. The federal government hasn't accepted that proposal.
Expanding TennCare, the state's Medicaid program, had been estimated to cover roughly 140,000 of Tennessee's nearly 1 million uninsured residents and bring in $1.4 billion in federal money.
“I believe Tennessee can also be a model for what true health care reform looks like; reform that will take significant steps to save the state and the nation from the unsustainable path we are on now,” Haslam said.
In a release news release, Haslam stated his plan would, leverage available federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for Tennesseans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level who don’t have access to health insurance. It would also allow co-pays for those who can afford to pay something.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement in response to Haslam's announcement: "I trust Governor Haslam to do what is in the best interest of Tennesseans. I will do all I can to help the state get the flexibility he has asked for."
Haslam is among the last of the Republican governors to declare a decision on expansion. Both the health care program and President Barack Obama are widely unpopular in the highly Republican state.