Does Tennessee Regret Not Running Its Own Insurance Exchange?

In November 2012, before Tennessee opted out of running an exchange, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “There’s going to be an exchange. Ultimately, our citizens through insurance companies are going to pay for the cost of running that exchange. And so, who do we think can run it cheaper, us or the federal government? I’ll bet on us every time. I really believe that. But we have to be convinced that the flexibility they’ll give us is worth taking the risk or running it ourselves.” Credit: TN Photo Services

In November 2012, before Tennessee opted out of running an exchange, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “There’s going to be an exchange. Ultimately, our citizens through insurance companies are going to pay for the cost of running that exchange. And so, who do we think can run it cheaper, us or the federal government? I’ll bet on us every time. I really believe that. But we have to be convinced that the flexibility they’ll give us is worth taking the risk or running it ourselves.” Credit: TN Photo Services

In a month’s time, only a few hundred Tennesseans have been able to enroll for health coverage in the online exchange run by the federal government. If he had it to do over again, would Tennessee’s Governor run his own insurance marketplace?

Republican Governor Bill Haslam calls Tennessee’s enrollment figures “disappointing,” but he says it’s hard to know if the state could have done any better than the glitchy federal site.

“We felt like it was their program and they were the ones who suggested it and it would be better in this initial stage if they ran it – the thought being at the time that having two cooks in the kitchen when you’re trying to put together something that complex would make it that much more difficult.”

Most Democratic governors chose to operate their own exchanges. Some are having just as much trouble getting off the ground as the feds. But others are going gangbusters. Kentucky is signing up a thousand people a day.

The insurance exchange headaches have also stalled progress on another part of Obamacare in Tennessee. Governor Haslam says Washington officials have too much on their plate to negotiate an expansion of Medicaid. Haslam wants to take the billions in federal funding without having to spend any state money.

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