Governor plans joint session Wednesday on Medicaid announcement

Governor plans joint session Wednesday on Medicaid announcement (Image 1)

Several Capitol Hill sources said that Governor Bill Haslam will announce a decision before a joint session of state lawmakers that would expand Tennessee's Medicaid program known as TennCare, but it's dependent on major concessions from the federal government.

The announcement will take place Wednesday morning.

A variety of sources with a stake in the issue believe the governor will announce a path “unique to Tennessee” that would take the federal money in a way that would provide health coverage for an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 lower income Tennesseans.

The path would do so while not saddling the state with debt once the Washington funds are lowered to pay 90% of the cost after three years.

The sources believe this plan is all dependent on the federal government's Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, which administers Medicaid funds to agree to a list of things the governor wants to do for his “unique path for Tennessee.”  

If concessions to the Medicaid expansion won't be granted by HHS, sources tell Nashville's News 2 the governor will “just say no.”

The issue has long been a politically difficult one for Haslam, who faces a conservative-dominated General Assembly that wants little to do with the Medicaid expansion as an option stemming from President Obama's health care law.

After the initial three years of expansion, states like Tennessee would pay about 10% of the program.

Among the loud voices opposed are lawmakers who bristle against government healthcare and the eventual state cost which could mushroom over time.

Bills in the legislature against accepting federal money to expand Medicaid have been put on hold by leadership so the governor could have the time he wanted to make his decision.

There has also been a question about what kind of legislative action is required if Governor Haslam decides to accept the federal money in some form to expand the Medicaid population.

Most health care observers believe those eligible for the expanded Medicaid would be in range of making mid-$20,000 dollars per year to lower $30,000 in annual wages.

States across the country have been divided in about half as to accepting the federal Medicaid expansion money.

Nashville's News 2 will be live streaming the announcement Wednesday morning.

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