'Some progress' made on Medicaid expansion, governor says - WKRN News 2

'Some progress' made on Medicaid expansion, governor says

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Governor Bill Haslam said Tuesday "some progress" has been made in the state's effort to use federal Medicaid expansion money from Obamacare to help buy uninsured Tennesseans health insurance.

It comes as the Obama administration official who has to approve the plan says Tennessee "is looking at a variety of options."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made herself available by satellite to Tennessee TV stations Tuesday to help push Obamacare enrollment before the March 31 deadline, but she was also asked about Governor Haslam's Medicaid expansion plan which was introduced more than a year ago.

"This is not the cookie-cutter Tenncare or Medicaid of the past," she said. "There is about $6.2 million available every day from the federal government to pay the cost of uninsured."

It was a reference to the amount of the expansion money the state is leaving on the table to help pay low-income Tennesseans who do not have health insurance.  

The Haslam administration estimates up to 175,000 Tennesseans would be eligible for the Medicaid expansion.

Other estimates have put the figure at more than 300,000.

When pressed about what is happening with the plan, Secretary Sebelius said the governor is "looking at a variety of options."

She cited what is going with other states, like Iowa and Arkansas, who have adopted alternative plans to using the Medicaid expansion money.

For the governor's part, he spent time Tuesday morning telling a Nashville Chamber of Commerce audience the status of his Medicaid expansion which he has called "The Tennessee Plan."

"We have made some progress," he said during his annual breakfast speech to the group. "I don't have some date where I might say we can work it out...if I had that I would tell you."

In broad strokes, Governor Haslam has proposed using the Medicaid expansion money to help people buy health insurance rather than adding them to the state's Medicaid program Tenncare.

He also wants an undetermined co-pay for the individuals to help them with some personal responsibility in their health care.

Federal officials have indicated that co-pays are not allowed under Medicaid guidelines.

Still, the governor faces a skeptical conservative legislature that will soon pass a bill that requires it to approve using any Medicaid expansion none.

The governor was asked if he thinks there is any use of the healthcare money that lawmakers might approve?

"Sure I do or I would not keep doing this," he replied quickly to reporters after the chamber event. "Believe me, the easiest thing to do would have been a year ago to forget this and say we are never going to work this out."  

And while the Secretary says Tennessee is losing out on millions daily to help the uninsured, the governor reminded the Chamber audience that controlling Medicaid costs is always part any expansion scenario.

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