State of the State: No Medicaid Expansion

Haslam said the state must be "very deliberate" about making a decision to add hundreds of thousands new Tenncare enrollees. Credit TN House of Representatives.

Haslam said the state must be “very deliberate” about making a decision to add hundreds of thousands new Tenncare enrollees. Credit TN House of Representatives.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says now is not the time to expand the state’s Medicaid program. But in his State of the State address Monday night, Haslam did not close the door to opening up Tenncare in the future.

The federal government’s Affordable Health Care Act offers hundreds of millions of dollars if the state broadens the guidelines for who can get Tenncare. But over time, the state would have to pick up part of the bill, and even without expansion, Haslam says Tenncare will cost an additional $350 million next year.

Still, Haslam admits the choice not to expand could come at a price.


“There are hospitals across this state, many of them in rural communities, that are going to struggle if not close under the health care law without expansion, and that’s not something to take lightly.”

The response from Democrats assigned a number: they say 54 Tennessee hospitals are at serious risk, plus 90,000 jobs associated with those facilities.

There’s still time for opting into the expansion program. Haslam hinted his decision is more of a “not now” than it is a firm “no,” saying he plans to gather more information on how it would impact the state.

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