Fitzhugh calls for special session on Medicaid expansion

News release from House Democratic Caucus

Nashville—House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is calling for Gov. Bill Haslam to convene a special session of the legislature in the wake of the Graham-Cassidy bill failing to garner enough votes in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 “Once again, the Affordable Care Act has been confirmed to be the law of the land,” Fitzhugh said.  “Congress has wasted many years and billions of dollars because of partisan bickering, while the physical and fiscal health of Tennessee’s families has been left in the balance.  Now is the time to roll up our sleeves at the state level and go to work on behalf of our constituents.  In that spirit, I call upon the governor to convene a special session of the legislature so that we may fully implement Medicaid expansion and keep our hospitals open in Tennessee.” 

The Graham-Cassidy bill was hailed by conservatives as a replacement for the ACA, but was pilloried by lawmakers, policy experts, and constituents.  Much like the first pass at repeal that Republican leadership tried earlier in the year, there were a number of complaints about a lack of transparency in the process of writing and editing the bill.  If the bill had garnered enough votes and passed, many states would have faced a fiscal cliff in less than 10 years, making budgeting difficult on the state level.  States that did not expand Medicaid have seen their insurance options shrink, hospitals close, and millions have fallen into a health insurance coverage gap. 

The last special session for the Tennessee legislature was called in September of 2016.  The governor convened the General Assembly to revise DUI laws so the state could collect $60 million in highway funding. 

“Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Tennessee has forgone billions of dollars in federal funding,” said Fitzhugh.  “Not only have working Tennesseans gone without healthcare, but we have watched as hospitals have closed across the state, making many regions of Tennessee less safe and crippling them financially.  Hospitals are the economic engines of our communities, providing good jobs and healthcare.  It is imperative that we as the representatives of the people of Tennessee step up and do what is best for our citizens.  If we can come back to Capitol Hill for highway funding, we can certainly do it for Tennessee families.”

Note: At a news conference, Fitzhugh said all 25 House Democrats will back Medicaid expansion, making for half the 50 votes needed for passage in the House. He was joined at the news conference by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart and three other Nashville Democrats — Reps. Bill Beck, John Ray Clemons and Sherry Jones — along with Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Memphis.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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