Medicaid expansion: Still pushed by Democrats, panned by Republicans

On the opening day of the 2018 legislative session Tuesday, about 100 protesters were on hand urging Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and House Democrats made a round of speeches supporting the idea. But Republican supermajority members remained hostile to the proposal, as they have since Gov. Bill Haslam tried and failed to win approval three years ago.

From the Times Free Press:

Inside the House chamber, Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and a candidate for governor, took up the call, saying he wanted to “set the tone” and urged GOP colleagues to back Medicaid expansion.

“Those political reasons are gone now,” Fitzhugh argued, alluding to Republican members’ aversion to the expansion largely underwritten by the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, charged Fitzhugh with making a “gubernatorial speech,” although the minority leader has pushed expansion under the ACA for several years.

Fitzhugh noted that the 10th rural Tennessee hospital is closing, a development he attributes to the failure to expand Medicaid.

Added Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville: “How many more people will have to die and how many people will have to go to emergency rooms? Again, I’m asking us to reach across the aisle.”

But Health Committee Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, sharply disagreed, saying, “If we want to have affordable health care it does not mean it has to be government health care.”

He said low patient censuses and other issues, including what he called “financial mismanagement” at Nashville General Hospital, are to blame.

Further, from The Tennessean:

They (protesters) cited the opioid crisis, the closure of rural hospitals and the growing number of Tennesseans uninsured. Many wore purple T-shirts or carried signs listing the number of uninsured residents in the state and questioned lawmakers entering the chambers about what each of them would do to address those issues.

“I think these people are trying to voice their priorities on the session, to say, ‘Even if this is an election year, even if you shorten the session, don’t shorten your emphasis on helping Tennesseans who are uninsured’,” Tom Starling, chairman of the Better Aging Coalition, said by telephone after the rally.

… “I’m opposed to it,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally after the Senate adjourned for the day. “I think it would eventually, or very quickly probably, hurt our budget process. I don’t think it will pass in the Senate. I’m surprised the House would consider it.”

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