NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Medicaid expansion bill that would deliver health care to potentially hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans raised a lot of eyebrows on the state’s capitol hill Wednesday.
That’s because one of the sponsors is a rural Republican whose state party has staunchly resisted efforts to expand the state’s Medicaid system TennCare. The measure also unexpectedly came on the last day bills could be filed in the House.
“We held it for the last day not on purpose but you know to get it right– to get it to everything that Insure Tennessee was supposed to do,” said Republican co-sponsor Rep. Ron Travis of Rhea County.
Insure Tennessee was an unsuccessful plan five years ago from former Republican Governor Bill Haslam.
It would have used available federal Obamacare money to provide heath care for several hundred thousand low income Tennesseans who were not eligible for medicaid help.
“If the bill passes we are going to say ‘hey we are going to give you health care. we going to have a co-pay on there, we are going to have work requirements on there, if the federal government stops for paying for it i am sorry that is not my fault,’ ” Rep. Travis said Wednesday shortly after filing the bill.
The lawmakers words were a reference to the bill stopping healthcare coverage if the federal government money for what’s called Medicaid expansion is not available anymore.
“My private polling has shown about 65-percent of the people are in favor of Medicaid expansion,” said Dr. Richard Briggs who is Senate sponsor of the Medicaid expansion bill. know the Vanderbilt polls have shown about the same numbers.
While Democrats in the legislature have long supported Medicaid expansion, the House sponsor’s fellow Republicans have been staunchly against it.
“That is true,” said Rep. Travis who was then asked by reporters “Why file it?”
“I know its a stretch, but if the money is in Washington and its set aside for expansion,” was the Republican lawmakers response. “I think we should take care of the working people who cannot afford healthcare.”
This all comes as Tennessee waits to see if the federal government accepts Republican
Governor Bill Lee’s plan for a block grant of the funding for the state’s Medicaid program TennCare.
Among the quick responses from other Republicans when hearing about the Medicaid expansion bill from two members of their party–“I thought we were past that” was a common response.
House Democrat Jason Hodges of Montgomery County is co-sponsor of the Medicaid expansion bill.