Insure Tennessee failure could cost Shelby County residents

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Haslam’s plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee has failed a Senate committee. The committee vote was 7-4.

That failure could be costly to residents of Shelby County.

Insure Tennessee would have provided health coverage to an estimated 280,000 Tennesseans who are currently uninsured.

Senator Brian Kelsey previously said that although the plan seems good on the surface.

“The question here is who’s paying for this health care, and I don’t want to have to see Tennessee taxpayers pay for that health care,” he said.

He worried the plan would have long-term negative impacts on our area and the entire state, “This plan will add $1.4 billion each year to the federal debt and Tennessee taxpayers share of that debt.”

There were also concerns voiced that there was no written agreement with the federal government and what the future would hold for the plan.

However, Haslam said the two-year pilot program wouldn’t create any new taxes for Tennesseans.

Hospitals even agreed to cover state funding if needed, and if the funding by state hospitals or federal government changed, Insure Tennessee would have ended.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell was hoping Insure Tennessee would provide much-needed funding for Regional Medical Center.

“…Let’s just say a $70 million cut in reimbursement at The Med. Then we’re going to have to make up roughly $70 million, and that’s almost a ten percent increase in the property tax rate,” Luttrell said earlier this month.

In his State of the County address Wednesday, Luttrell said a property tax hike of as much as ten percent could be needed to make up the funding shortfall.

When Haslam visited Memphis to discuss the plan earlier this month, he answered questions about premiums, co-pays, and availability of care. Afterwards, most everyone appeared to support the governor despite party affiliation.

“None of us wants to have it on our conscience that we denied our fellow Tennesseans affordable healthcare because of some philosophical difference,” Tennessee Representative Johnnie Turner said.

State Representative Antonio Parkinson of Memphis told WREG earlier this month the Insure Tennessee debate should be about lives, not politics.

“I think we need to remove the partisanship issues from this. This is about people’s lives. At the end of the day, if we don’t have access to health care, some family members may die,” he said.

Congressman Steve Cohen sent the following statement:

Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick. This vote is foolish because it leaves $1 billion in federal each year on the table that could have helped keep hospitals open, boosted our economy, and improved our citizens’ health. This vote is sad because it shows inhumanity and disdain for Tennessee’s sick and our poorest citizens in need of health care. And it is sick because some of those Tennesseans will die as a result of this decision. Those who voted ‘no’ today made a foolish, sad, sick and outright wrong decision.

State Senator Jeff Yarbro, a member of the Senate Health Committee, said in a statement, “Lawmakers have spent two years trying to find a solution to expand access to health care in our state, but it took only two days for the legislature to vote it down. It’s disheartening that seven Senators can make this decision for 6.5 million Tennesseans.”

He added, “Democrats will continue to make the case for expanding access to affordable health insurance in Tennessee. We will continue to work with the governor and with common-sense members of both parties to move past politics and do what’s right for Tennesseans.”

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

The seven Senate Health and Welfare Committee members who voted against the bill were Mike Bell (R-Athens), Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains), Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), and Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City).

Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), and Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) voted for the bill.

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