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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tennessee Governor Proposes Expansion of Medicaid

December 18, 2014 | Medicaid | Comments
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This week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced plans to expand Medicaid in the Volunteer State. Tennessee is now the third state to announce an expansion of Medicaid since the midterm elections in November. Chris Wyre and Bob Vero, Board Members of the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations and members of the National Council, were asked to stand with Governor Haslam as he made his announcement.

The proposed expansion plan, which will be debated by a special session of the Tennessee state legislature, is a two-year waiver program with two tracks. The first will offer vouchers to help people pay premiums for employer coverage they would otherwise struggle to afford. The second would allow newly eligible individuals to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program, called TennCare, where they would be liable for unspecified out-of-pocket costs. About 142,000 low-income adults would be eligible for coverage through this expansion.

This plan deviates from the Medicaid expansion envisioned in the Affordable Care Act. “This plan leverages federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Tennesseans, to give people a choice in their coverage and to address the cost of health care, better health outcomes and personal responsibility,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “We think we have a plan in Tennessee that fits our citizens and also is an answer to budget challenges we’d face in the future.”

The plan must still be approved by the state legislature and by the Obama administration. President Obama and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell have stated that they are open to all forms of expansion. The President has already approved expansions that required waivers in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa. Secretary Burwell has been outspoken in her support of any and all states expanding access to affordable health coverage.  “My message to governors is that ‘If you’re interested in expanding, call me,’” Burwell said.

Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for more news on Medicaid expansion.