Haslam Says He's 'Encouraged' As Washington Turns To GOP Governors For Input On Health Care

Mar 1, 2017

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam could play a key role in determining what Republicans in Washington do next on health care.

Haslam is part of a team of eight governors tapped to advise the Trump administration and Congress on how they'd replace the Affordable Care Act. The group was assembled by Republican Governors Association chairman Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Haslam says he met twice with new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price while he was in Washington last weekend, and he's been on the phone with other governors to discuss health care every few days.

Haslam says the White House and lawmakers have been receptive to their ideas.

"The encouraging thing, and I mean this is, for the first time ever, we have a conversation going on between governors, Congress and the administration," Haslam says. "That hasn't happened on any issue, period, in the six-plus years that I've been here."

The questions they're tackling include fixing up the insurance marketplace so more plans are available to consumers. Many providers have pulled back, citing high costs to provide coverage.

The Trump administration and Congress also have to figure out how to dole out money for health care. That's usually through Medicaid, which each state operates independently with oversight from the federal government.

The working group includes the Republican governors of states that expanded Medicaid as called for under Obamacare. Haslam says they don't want to lose that funding.

Tennessee, however, didn't expand Medicaid, and Haslam says he's been trying to convince lawmakers not to reduce its share of federal health care spending because of that. He argues each state should receive a set amount for each person who enrolls in Medicaid.

Haslam says he doesn't want Washington to put too much of the cost of covering the poor on the states. That could be a major burden, especially the next time the economy takes a downturn.