A pair of Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would expand the state’s Medicaid coverage to 300,000 uninsured Tennesseans.
“It would not cost the state or taxpayer anything,” Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, one of the sponsors of the Senate’s version of the bill, told The Center Square via email.
Ninety percent of the cost would come from the federal government, Briggs said. The state cost would be paid for with a six percent assessment on Tennessee hospitals, which is supported by the Tennessee Hospital Association.
The Senate’s version of the bill is Senate Bill 2526. The House version, House Bill 2529, is sponsored by Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton. The bill would require Gov. Bill Lee to submit a waiver amendment to the federal government that requests coverage for the same groups and services that the failed Insure Tennessee plan sought. It retains any block grant financing arrangement and work and community engagement requirements.
Briggs said no person should be without health insurance. However, he does not expect the majority of his party to support this legislation, which would make it difficult to get this bill past the Republican supermajority in the chamber. The House also has a Republican supermajority.
Justin Owen, the CEO of the free-market Beacon Center in Tennessee, told The Center Square via email that expansion would be unaffordable and that studies have shown it will not lead to better overall health outcomes in the state.
“Previous expansion proposals have been estimated to cost around $1.5 billion in new federal taxpayer money,” Owen said. “The state would also be on the hook for a percentage of the cost to the new population, plus administrative costs. So Tennessee taxpayers would have to fork over more money in both federal and state taxes to pay for expansion.”
Owen said that access to health care would be expanded more effectively if lawmakers reduced government regulation, such as the certificate of need laws. He also said the state should expand telehealth.