NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that expanding Medicaid -- to give health insurance to those Tennesseans who've lost their jobs -- is not on his agenda at this point.
"We are committed to finding a way to make sure that every Tennessean is served in their health needs for COVID-19," Lee said in response to questions from NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Lee's efforts have focused on expanding Medicaid just to cover testing and treatment for COVID-19.
But what about all the people who've lost their jobs and are going to end up without health insurance to cover other basic medical needs?
Estimates indicated that about 300,000 Tennesseans did not have health insurance before the COVID-19 economic crisis. With all the job losses, advocates say that number will go even higher.
Would the Republican governor be willing to follow the lead of 38 other states and accept federal dollars, available under the Affordable Care Act, to expand Medicaid to cover the uninsured?
"We actually really believe that once we get through the health crisis, then the economic impacts will begin to improve," Lee said, touting efforts to provide unemployment benefits and to help small businesses get back on their feet.
"We certainly hope they will not be unemployed in the future," the governor concluded.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So for those who do not get jobs immediately, why not give them full Medicaid coverage?"
"Well, we are focused, as you know, on the effects of COVID-19 right now," Lee answered.
"It's an enormous challenge for our state. We are addressing it economically and from a health standpoint. Those are the things we need to be focused on right now."