Top Republicans are split on Medicaid expansion incentives that could top $1 billion

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — New incentives in the latest COVID-19 relief package will give Tennessee the option for millions of dollars to cover the healthcare cost of 300,000 Tennesseans if the General Assembly decides to expand Medicaid.

Tennessee Democrats are renewing their hope that the state will expand Medicaid under new standards from the federal government.

“Here’s our chance, here’s our chance to make it right,” said House Democratic Caucus leader Vincent Dixie.

New healthcare provisions from the recent COVID-19 relief package instructs the federal government to pay 95 percent of the cost of coverage for the next two years.

“We have to realize that over the last six years or so we’ve lost out between $6 and $8 billion dollars that could have flown into this state,” Dixie said.

Republican Lt. Governor Randy McNally spoke with Governor Bill Lee about expanding Medicaid under the new rules.

The Oak Ridge senator says further conversation could happen after the federal government in the new Joe Biden administration reviews the state’s block grant program that former President Donald Trump’s administration approved.

“I think the block grant part of course has to come first, and then review the proposal,” McNally said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Tennessee would get around $1.2 billion dollars.

The Republican House Speaker is signaling any expansion bill will be dead on arrival.

“My policy has always been, you don’t make a policy decision based on how much funding you think you may get in the short-term, it needs to be really about the policy, and right now I don’t think we could pass expansion here on the House floor,” Speaker Cameron Sexton said.

Tennessee is among 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid. After the two years of extra funding, the federal government will pay 90 percent of the cost.

A spokeswoman for Governor Bill Lee says the administration is “currently focused on the successful administration of the Medicaid block grant waiver that was approved this January after a year and a half of negotiations, this has the potential to allow TennCare to cover additional needy populations through shared savings.”

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