NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Haslam addressed the General Assembly Monday regarding his Insure Tennessee plan.
The plan, announced last December, would use federal money to purchase health insurance coverage for over 280,000 low-income uninsured Tennesseans.
Many Republicans have expressed concern over the plan because it relies on funds available under President Barack Obama’s health care law and the Affordable Care Act.
Monday’s special session was a joint convention of both the state’s House and Senate.
Haslam used the meeting to argue his proposal to lawmakers.
“After nearly two years of hard work, we have a Tennessee-specific plan that addresses health outcomes and cost,” Haslam said. “This is not Obamacare. If it was, it wouldn’t have taken this long to negotiate. We have done what you asked us to do and what we said we would do. We found a unique, Tennessee solution.”
The governor went on to say that as a Republican leader, he feels “like we owe the country answers as to what we would do about health care.” Click here to read Haslam’s full remarks.
Those who qualify must make less than $16,000 a year. A family of three would need to make less than $27,000.
The plan provides two new coverage options not currently provided in a traditional Medicaid program.
The first option is called the Volunteer Plan, which will offer a voucher to participants that they can use to take part in their employer’s health insurance plan. The voucher will be used to pay for out of pocket expenses and premiums that are associated with private market plans.
The second option is called the Healthy Incentives plan where people can choose to get coverage through a re-designed program of TennCare. Governor Haslam said it would introduce healthy incentives for Tennesseans, or HIT accounts, which are modeled after health reimbursement accounts and could be used to pay for a part of the required cost sharing.
Haslam also said Insure Tennessee will be of no additional cost to taxpayers, and Tennessee hospitals will cover anything beyond what the federal government covers.
If enacted, Insure Tennessee would automatically end if federal funding or financial support from hospitals changes.
“It provides health care for 300,000 people that work now and don’t have the ability to have it,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “It spurs the economy and it is the right thing to do.”
“The majority of the members at best are doubtful they are not sure if this is good for Tennessee on a long term basis, so the governor has his work cut out for him. He’s going to have to convince 50 out of 99 and he’s not there today,” said House Republican Caucus Chair Glen Casada.