Still Hope For Medicaid Compromise, Says Haslam

Feb 5, 2014

Nearly a year after turning down federal funding to expand the state's Medicaid rolls, Governor Bill Haslam said he still hopes he can work out a compromise with federal health officials.

Speaking at an event in Washington on Tuesday, Haslam said he still hadn't given up hope that federal authorities would sign off on his proposal to accept federal money, but not for TennCare expansion. Haslam wants to give the money to customers who would use it to purchase their own health insurance.

So far, the idea hasn't gained much traction in Washington.

“My challenge is to find something I can get the Legislature to approve and that I can get [the Department of Health and Human Services] to approve,” Haslam told an audience at the National Press Club. “We keep saying we want something that encourages more user engagement. HHS says, ‘That’s fine. But under no circumstances can you deny care for a Medicaid patient.’ So if you can’t deny care, and it’s free, it’s hard to figure out how to encourage user engagement. That’s what we’re working toward.”

Tennessee is one of 24 states that declined to expand Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Haslam said he hopes to discuss his compromise plan with HHS officials again in a few weeks.