NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are putting the brakes on a bill seeking to bar Tennessee from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville announced the move at a legislative preview session Thursday hosted by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association. He said he persuaded fellow Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown to park his bill to block the expansion.
"It was on notice yesterday, and not on notice today, OK?" Ramsey said.
Ramsey remains skeptical about whether Tennessee should participate in growing the program known as TennCare in the state, but said he doesn't want to preclude the governor from examining all angles before making a decision.
Haslam said he's "seen some growing flexibility" in the U.S. Health and Human Resources Department about which services the state would have to cover among the expanded TennCare population. He also said he wants to check with other Republican governors who have recently decided to pursue an expansion in their states.
"We're trying to go back to them and say specifically, what do you know now that you didn't know before?" he said. "I don't know if they've gotten any special deals yet. We're trying to find that out."
Expanding Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of poverty could add an estimated 145,000 people to the TennCare rolls. The federal government would pay for all of the increased costs under the expansion for the first three years, and phase down its share to 90 percent after that — still well above the average 60 percent share it currently covers for Medicaid.
Kelsey, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an earlier panel discussion that he doesn't believe the federal government will keep its word on funding no less than 90 percent of the added costs.