Democrats have called on Governor Haslam to hold a special session so that lawmakers can consider expanding Medicaid in Tennessee.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said since that national efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have failed, now is the time for the state to act.
"At first, it was totally political, because of who the president was, it was linked with Obamacare but those days are over," Fitzhugh said. "Secondly, it was a new administration would come in and take care of it. A new administration has come in and has not taken care of it."
About 280,000 Tennesseans do not have health insurance because they fall into a coverage gap. That group doesn't qualify for TennCare and does not make enough money to qualify for subsidies under Obamacare, according to experts at the Tennessee Justice Center.
"They’re the only group in the country who don’t have any help affording insurance," said Chris Coleman, an attorney with TJC."There's a hidden health care tax we all pay in increased premiums that is passed from the hospital, to the insurance company, to the insured person. We pay money because of the legislature's decision not to close the coverage gap."
Fitzhugh, who is running for Governor, said expanding Medicaid will be his first priority if elected.
Below are statements from Tennessee's other gubernatorial candidates:
House Speaker Beth Harwell (R–Nashville):
"As Speaker of the House, I believe that instead of calling for a wasteful special session to expand a program that is failing, we as State Representatives and Senators should instead call on Congress to return healthcare back to the states without strings attached so we can begin to develop a better, more affordable program for Tennesseans."
House Majority Leader Glen Casada & Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams:
“As Republican leaders of our state, we want to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, not support a broken healthcare system that has become a drain on Tennessee families and backed insurance providers into a corner.
Republicans want real solutions, not political promises that would result in more bureaucracy, higher costs, and drive a bigger wedge between patients and doctors. Obamacare has caused insurance rates to skyrocket to a point where the middle class can no longer afford coverage.
Medicaid expansion has been an abysmal failure for those states that have participated. Here in Tennessee, we are committed to improving health and quality of life for all Tennesseans through free market principles that demonstrate real results.”
Former Mayor Karl Dean:
"I believe the decision not to expand Medicaid in 2015 was one of the worst mistakes our state legislature has ever made. Tennesseans in every part of our state have been hurt by it, but especially in our rural communities. After nine hospital closures, Tennessee now ranks No. 2 for hospital closures in the nation -- that is unacceptable.
I strongly encourage Governor Haslam and our state legislators to reconsider a path forward and find a bipartisan solution that includes Medicaid expansion. It would have a direct and tangible impact on people's lives and our state's economy. In order to recruit jobs, Tennesseans need better access to hospitals and healthcare."
Businessman Bill Lee:
"Tennesseans are keenly aware of how much Obamacare is failing and their focus is on repeal, not expansion."