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.”

3 Responses to Medicaid expansion: Still pushed by Democrats, panned by Republicans

  • Norma Shirk says:

    Plenty of state dollars for guns & ammo and corporate welfare – a/k/a tax rebates to “create” jobs in TN. But no money for healthcare for lower income people who are the workforce and provide the real engine for economic success in the state. The Republican Party again shows its contempt for the future success of the state.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Good gosh Norma, are we raising a military here in Tennessee? I hope so because the liberals in Washington are doing what they can to prevent the federal government maintaining one.

      You have a great sense of humor though, just when government healthcare is collapsing in places like the UK and Medicaid has shown itself to be a poorly performing program in terms of access to care, physician participation, and medical outcomes you apparently are measuring the “success of the state” in terms of further socialization medical care in Tennessee. In fact, the success of Tennessee will be based on how LITTLE the state involves itself in the furnishing of healthcare or most anything else except law enforcement for that matter.

  • Michael Lottman says:

    It is depressing to hear Republican legislators making the same meritless, dishonest arguments against expanding the existing Medicaid program to provide access to health insurance and decent health care to Tennesseans who cannot afford or obtain it any other way. This is not “government health care” any more than the federal government already is and has been involved for many, many years in helping to make medical care available to a large sector of the economy and to regulate the allocation and quality of such care. The failure to expand our TennCare program at 90% federal expense has led and continues to lead to the closing of small and rural hospitals that can no longer afford to provide “free” healthcare to those in need. We lead the nation in that regard, and when these hospitals close, all members of the community, not just low-income families or prospective Medicaid beneficiaries, are deprived of access to care close to their homes as well as the jobs of those who provided that care.
    So people who vote against Medicaid are voting against themselves and their communities.

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