NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam will address a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly on Wednesday about his decision on whether to expand Medicaid to cover more uninsured people under the federal health care overhaul, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Lawmakers plan to authorize the gathering during regular floor sessions Wednesday morning, the official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the joint assembly hadn't yet been publicly announced.
The governor's office did not immediately return messages seeking comment, though Haslam's spokesman recommended reporters attend the House floor session at 9:30 a.m. CDT.
Haslam hasn't indicated whether he'll recommend expanding TennCare, the state's Medicaid program, with the federal government paying the entire cost for the first three years and at least 90 percent thereafter.
"This is an incredibly complex issue," Haslam told reporters earlier this week. "Every day I learn something new about the law, about its impact on Tennessee, about its impact on local governments, about its impact on businesses."
The expansion is estimated to cover roughly 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans and bring in $1.4 billion in federal money in the first year. The hospital industry has called expansion crucial to boosting jobs in that sector, and has warned that declining the money could cause some rural hospitals to go out of business.
But the prospects of getting the Republican supermajority to agree to an expansion of President Barack Obama's signature law could prove daunting.
"The politics of it are difficult," Haslam said. "And we've recognized that from the very beginning."
Haslam said his administration was working to the "last minute" to work through the various scenarios with federal government.
"Ultimately we have to be convinced it's the right thing for Tennessee and we're not taking on a lot of added burden that's going to cost us down the road," Haslam said.
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