Tennessee governor working with HHS on Medicaid expansion

The Republican governor of Tennessee on Monday said he’d be open to expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare if a system is found that the state's GOP-led legislature approves of.

Gov. Bill Haslam, in a letter sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius, expressed optimism that a solution could be found.

“We recognize that Tennessee’s proposed premium assistance model deviates in many ways from the Medicaid expansion model originally envisioned by CMS,” Haslam wrote. “We appreciate your willingness to work with us as we attempt to craft a plan that will best address the needs of the people of Tennessee and draw support from the elected officials who represent them.”

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it’s open to working with state Republicans on workarounds for aspects of the Affordable Care Act that they may not be comfortable with.

Haslam has so far declined the Medicaid expansion under the law, but has consistently said he’d be open to it if the feds offered him some leeway.

Haslam said his primary concern is the cost to taxpayers in his state.
“Tennessee is proposing a benefit design that would apply cost sharing requirements at the maximum level permitted by CMS and we hope to continue discussions regarding any flexibility CMS has to address our concerns,” he wrote.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the feds pay 100 percent of a state’s Medicaid expansion during the first year, and 90 percent every year after.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have so far opted into the expanded Medicaid program, while 25 states, mostly run by Republican governors or legislatures, have said they would not move forward on the expansion at this time.