Haslam Changing Tune on Expanding Medicaid

Gov. Bill Haslam addressed Nashville Area and Tennessee chambers of commerce. Image courtesy TN Photo Services
Gov. Bill Haslam addressed Nashville Area and Tennessee chambers of commerce. Image courtesy TN Photo Services

Governor Bill Haslam is saying there’s still a chance to expand TennCare and cover more of the state’s uninsured. He is in “active conversations” with federal officials.

Last week Haslam effectively turned down billions of dollars in federal money to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program. But after talking with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Good Friday, he says the federal agency is sounding more receptive to his demands.

He wants flexibility to put 180,000 people in private insurance plans instead of paying for them to have the more generous benefits on TennCare. Haslam says there’s an opportunity to take care of the working poor and try to save some government money along the way.

“Some folks say, ‘you’re off on this quest that’s really a fool’s errand because there’s no way you’ll work this out,’” Haslam told reporters. “My argument would be, this really is a once in a lifetime chance to do it and shame on us if we don’t take this opportunity to address that.”

The governor’s tone has changed from last week, when he called the Affordable Care Act a “scandal.” But he remains reluctant to give a timeline, saying it could take a day or an entire year to work out a deal.

Haslam has also committed to letting state lawmakers weigh-in, and most in the Republican majority have had only bad things to say about expansion.

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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