Haslam vetoes proton therapy bill (Updated)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill to require the state employee health insurance program to cover hypofractionated proton therapy, an alternative cancer treatment.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) and Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) cleared the Senate on a 29-1 vote and the House by 82-13. Haslam said in his veto message that the bill circumvented the state’s established process for deciding insurance coverage for state employees.

The release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today released the following statement regarding SB 367:

“Today, I vetoed Senate Bill 367, a bill that circumvents the established process for determining state employee insurance program coverage based on medical evidence and effectiveness. The state plan currently covers many forms of radiation treatment, and the provider advocating this bill rejected a medically appropriate plan for expanded coverage to instead pursue a political mandate. The state is committed to high-quality care that is medically appropriate and fiscally responsible for patients and taxpayers, but this mandate could put patients at risk and expose them to excessive charges from out-of-network providers.”

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) predictably wants a veto-override session:

“Let’s remember where this begins: A physician and patient. The physician makes a recommendation for what he thinks or she thinks is best for the patient. Next, the patient decides they want that. But then, the insurance companies step in,” Green said in a release. “Unfortunately, the Governor has chosen to side with the insurance companies and their vendors — ignoring what physicians and the patient have decided is best.”

UPDATE No. 2: Not so fast, say Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in a joint statement:

“While it is the prerogative of the legislature to call for a special session at any time, we believe it would be premature at this point. The 110th General Assembly’s final bills are still being enrolled, signed and sent to the governor. The most prudent course is to wait for gubernatorial action on all legislation passed this session. Only then can we reasonably assess the need for a special session.”

UPDATE No. 3: Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black, no stranger to supplying guidance to what should and should not occur at the state Capitol, wants Haslam to sign an unrelated bill sponsored by Green addressing sanctuary cities.

“Sanctuary cities have no place in our state, and Governor Haslam should sign the anti-sanctuary cities legislation passed by the General Assembly – the duly elected representatives of the people of Tennessee. It is a common-sense bill that supports law enforcement and prohibits local governments from rewarding illegal immigration. It needs to become a common-sense law.”


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