Tennessee Republican introduces Medicaid expansion bill

Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 20:26:49-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Rep. Ron Travis (R – Dayton) has introduced a bill that would expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

HB2529, which was filed on Wednesday, would provide medical coverage for the same population groups and services as former Governor Bill Haslam’s failed Insure Tennessee proposal, which would have extended coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

The bill's co-sponsor is State Senator Richard Briggs, a Knoxville Republican. Briggs originally brought the Insure Tennessee plan in 2015. However, it was rejected by lawmakers who were worried the federal funding of Medicaid expansion would dry up.

"They expanded Medicaid in Indiana. It's very similar to the Tennessee plan," said Briggs. "Their plan has worked very very well in Indiana. This was supported by a conservative republican legislature and a conservative republican governor. Who's now the Vice President of the United States."

This bill would direct Governor Bill Lee to submit a waiver within 180 days to provide coverage to the groups included under Haslam's proposal. It would also comply with the state’s block grant plan.

Senate Democrats praised the legislation, saying they’re ready to work with GOP members to expand Medicaid. Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D – Nashville) called it “great news.” “We should never let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing on healthcare,” Yarbro said.

Democrats say expanding Medicaid would provide $1.4 billion for Tennessee’s health care economy. Sen. Yarbro introduced two bills last session that would grant the governor the authority to expand Medicaid.

15 years ago, many Tennesseans were insured under Tenncare. However, after the program came to cost too much, the state couldn't afford to operate.

"We were a 100% covered state. But it had become too expensive. In 2005, 2006, Gov. Bredesen had to dis-enroll over a couple of years," said Briggs. When the changes first happened, 180,000 people lost coverage. "Evidently, that was very painful. There was a lot of protest. And it really did seem cruel for people who needed care to be, all of the sudden, kicked out of a plan."