Moderate Republicans Vote To Leave Medicaid Expansion To Tennessee’s Governor

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris opposes tying the hands of Gov. Bill Haslam on Medicaid expansion, fearing it might interfere with the state's existing Medicaid waiver program, known as TennCare. Credit: TN Photo Services

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (left) opposes tying the hands of Gov. Bill Haslam on Medicaid expansion, fearing it might interfere with the state’s existing Medicaid waiver program, known as TennCare. Credit: TN Photo Services

Moderate Republicans may have kept Tennessee’s Governor from having his hands tied regarding Medicaid expansion. They voted with Democrats Tuesday on the powerful Senate Finance Committee to leave the state’s options open.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) started last year as an effort to block Tennessee from accepting federal money associated with the Affordable Care Act meant to cover hundreds of thousands of the working poor.

The Haslam Administration opposed Kelsey’s first bill. So the proposal was watered down a couple of times to the point that it just required the governor to get the legislature’s OK before expanding Medicaid, which he said he would do anyway.

Still, Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) says he worries about somehow hamstringing the state’s Medicaid program in the process.

“I’m growing increasingly concerned about unintended consequences,” he said Tuesday, quickly following up that he resists “any implication” that he supports the President’s health care law.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said almost every Republican opposes the Affordable Care Act at some level, but he doesn’t want to “interfere” with the state’s existing Medicaid program just to make a political statement.

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