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Tennessee governor weighs Medicaid expansion decision

February 22, 2013 2:26 pm by | 0 Comments

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KNOXVILLE - The politics of Medicaid may be changing, but Gov. Bill Haslam indicated Friday that the shift may not impact the debate in Tennessee.

Haslam was the featured speaker at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber, and his remarks focused on topics including education, job creation and health care.

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, states have the option to expand Medicaid coverage in exchange for additional federal funding, and the governor said state officials are doing the math to see if that move makes sense.

On Friday, Haslam outlined several factors that are being considered, including the fact that more people will be covered, the benefits to hospitals and the financial impact on the state.

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The federal government would cover 100 percent of the additional costs for three years and then move to 90 percent, but Haslam on Friday cited the possibility that the federal government would cut back on its support in future years.

Several state lawmakers have filed legislation that would prohibit an expansion of Medicaid, but outside Tennessee some Republicans have embraced the idea.

Most recently, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a conservative Republican who had opposed an expansion of Medicaid, said he would ask that state's Legislature to back the idea for three years, with the possibility of a reauthorization after that time.

Asked if such a move affects the politics in the Tennessee Legislature, Haslam said "My sense is from working with our Legislature that they're a pretty independent group. And I don't mean that in a negative sense. I think they're going to make up their own mind," he said.

Haslam said his office will probably bring a recommendation on the issue in the next three to four weeks. ___

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