In a major policy move, Gov. Bill Haslam has announced the new Insure Tennessee plan, a two-year pilot program to provide health care coverage to tens of thousands of Tennesseans who currently don't have access to health insurance or have limited options.
The plan would be leveraged with federal dollars, said Haslam, who has been working on a Medicaid expansion plan that could gain approval from both federal officials and the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
"We made the decision in Tennessee nearly two years ago not to expand traditional Medicaid," Haslam said. "This is an alternative approach that forges a different path and is a unique Tennessee solution. 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.
"Our approach is responsible and reasonable, and I truly believe that it can be a catalyst to fundamentally changing health care in Tennessee," Haslam said.
If this sounds like Haslam's having his "It's better than Obamacare because we fixed it!" cake and eating it too, it's because he is. But he still has to convince Tennessee's heavily GOP legislature to sign off on the plan.
Many federal Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act say expansion is an unfunded mandate from the federal government. For weeks Haslam has said it will be challenging to find a plan that both federal health officials and state lawmakers both support. As recently as Thursday, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he thinks Haslam could "sell" the General Assembly on expansion, but he doubted whether the "Obama administration" would approve any plan that could make it through the legislature.
So it'll be Obama's fault if the plan doesn't pass muster, and Tennessee can say "Well, we tried to expand Medicaid, but mean ol' Obama wouldn't let us."
Very clever, and it's why I think this plan is going nowhere fast.