Once again Republicans in Tennessee's legislature have killed GOP Gov. Bill Haslam's plans to expand health insurance. What makes "Republicans tell thousands of voters to shut up and die" actually newsworthy is that Haslam was pushing what national Republicans say they want as far as replacing Obamacare's Medicaid expansion: vouchers and health savings accounts. The plan didn't even make it out of a state Senate committee.
It was never very likely the nine-member committee, eight of whom are Republicans, would approve the plan. Opponents repeatedly said they thought the plan would end up costing the state tax money, questioned whether Tennessee could opt out of the plan and criticized its ties to the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
During the hearing Tuesday, though, there was very little discussion. Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, asked one question about the plan, the only question asked by a committee member.
"It was disconcerting to see the lack of any meaningful discussion. The people of Tennessee deserved better from their legislature today," said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville.
Yarbro initially sponsored the resolution that allowed Haslam to move forward with the plan during the regular session after a GOP-backed measure failed in a special legislative session earlier this year. After a subcommittee and committee approved the plan, GOP Sens. Doug Overbey and Richard Briggs took over as lead sponsors of the resolution.
"It is not an expansion to Medicaid. It is a new approach. It is a Tennessee approach," Overbey, R-Maryville, told the committee Tuesday.
Overbey sponsored the resolution during the special session, and Briggs, who also is a doctor, voted for the plan when it died in special session. Because of concerns raised during that session, lawmakers amended the latest version of Insure Tennessee.
The new plan required Haslam to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the ACA case called King v. Burwell; created a six-month "lockout" for people who don't pay Insure Tennessee premiums; and required Haslam to have a letter from federal health officials promising to let Tennessee end the program at any time.
Otherwise, the plan is the same as introduced during the special session. The plan creates two programs for people who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line: one would create vouchers for people whose employers offer insurance that they cannot afford, and a second program would create savings accounts that members could use to pay costs after partaking in healthy choices, such as appropriate use of an emergency room.
"Is Insure Tennessee Obamacare? I think you can give it a resounding no, it is not," said Briggs, R-Knoxville.
And Insure Tennessee's Republican plan lost the committee vote 2-6-1. If poor people die, they're no longer the state's problem, are they?
When Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with a Republican version, point to Tennessee as proof they are lying.