With Obamacare Affirmed, Tennessee Democrats Say It's Time To Look Again At Medicaid Expansion | Nashville Public Radio

With Obamacare Affirmed, Tennessee Democrats Say It's Time To Look Again At Medicaid Expansion

Mar 29, 2017

Tennessee Democrats are hoping to revive the debate over expanding TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.

The move comes after Republicans in Congress failed last week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Tennessee was one of 19 states that did not expand Medicaid, as called for by the ACA. But now that Obamacare's footing seems to be more secure, four of those states are looking at offering the program to more of the poor.

Democrats would like to see Tennessee become the fifth.

"The sooner the better, so we can begin collecting and allowing up to 300- or 400-hundred thousand people to be covered under Medicaid," says House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Fitzhugh proposes repealing a state law that requires the legislature to sign off on Medicaid expansion. That would free up Governor Bill Haslam to negotiate a plan with the Trump administration.

Haslam says he's instructed TennCare officials to review their options. But it's too soon to come up with a plan.

"I think it's early. I mean, we literally just had, Friday, the country took a change of direction no one was expecting," he says.

Haslam adds it's probably too late in the legislative session to propose an expansion plan this year. Lawmakers are likely to adjourn around the end of April, and the administration has focused on passing the state budget and a road-funding plan.

Democrats, on the other hand, say Tennessee has already put Medicaid expansion off long enough.