Governor Bill Haslam says if Tennessee puts off setting up a health insurance exchange, it could miss a chance for federal money to pay for it. The exchange would be a hub where people and businesses shop for coverage, as required by last year’s healthcare overhaul.
Last week state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey floated the idea of delaying a decision until the end of next year, and maybe holding a special session then. That would let lawmakers put off a vote until after the Supreme Court has weighed in on the healthcare overhaul, and after next year’s election.
Such a vote would also miss a federal deadline for grants to cover state costs for setting up an exchange. That makes Governor Haslam skeptical of a potential delay.
“My concern is, if you do that, the federal grants that are available might be gone by that point in time. I’m not certain it’s responsible for us as a state to push off the whole decision on whether or not we do it that far.”
If Tennessee does nothing, it could instead be pulled into a federal exchange. Speaker Ramsey has said lawmakers don’t want to leave control to Washington – but they also don’t want to enable part of what he calls ‘Obamacare.’
State House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’s talked with Ramsey, and understands why he’d prefer the delay.
“It is so very confusing as to what is actually going to come out of Washington, D.C. Even now you can’t get a straight answer to them on how to implement a state exchange or a federal exchange – very confusing.”
Harwell says while “no one likes special session,” if the state isn’t sure what to do, it should wait.