Governor Haslam wants to expand health coverage in Tennessee

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For thousands of Tennesseans such as Stacey Pierce, the lack of health insurance is part of a difficult way of life.

"I don't have any. Oh, it's very difficult. I got over $600 worth of medical bills right now at home and I just do what I do," Pierce said.

In what's considered a major policy move, Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a new two-year pilot program called Insure Tennessee. It would expand coverage to thousands of people who currently don't have access to health insurance or have limited options.

Here are the five key areas of the governor's plan:

• Create a fiscally sound and sustainable program
• Provide two new private market choices for Tennesseans
• Shift  care in Tennessee from fee-for-service to outcome based
• Give incentives to people who take more personal responsibility for their health
• Prepare participants for the eventual transition to commercial health coverage

Cato Johnson is senior vice president for public policy and regulatory affairs for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis.

"This is exceptional program for the state of Tennessee," Johnson said.

Johnson said the Haslam plan could help many people in Memphis and across the state.

"We're talking about the working poor. We're talking about veterans. We're talking individuals who work on jobs, but can't afford to have insurance. They'll be able to take a voucher and buy into their employers insurance," Johnson said.

The governor will now have to get his plan through the Tennessee general assembly, but many expect the plan won't face any major obstacles.

"One of the things we have going for us is other states have done this. We do have Arkansas, which has something similar and we do have Michigan. There are blueprints out there that we can look at to see what's worked right," Johnson said.

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