Governor of Tennessee joins peers refusing Medicaid plan

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee has rejected expansion of Medicaid in his state over impatience with the Obama administration’s for approval of his proposal to let the state use the money to buy private insurance for the working poor who wold otherwise be covered by Medicaid expansion.

In turning down Medicaid expansion, Haslam called for a the federal health care overhaul, joining 18 other Republican governors who have rejected expansion for now, the New York times reported Friday.

In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant has repeatedly said the state wants no part of Medicaid expansion, though he has not offered alternatives the way Haslam has. Bryant has said the state’s uninsured residents can use emergency room care when necessary, though that prospect worries Mississippi hospital officials who say the state could lose tens of millions in federal  dollars that now to hospitals to offset the cost of treating the uninsured.  The money for expanding Medicaid is intended to replace many of the dollars hospitals now get for treating the uninsured.

Meanwhile, Haslam said he wanted to use federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for as many as 175,000 low-income residents of his state. But he said that plan was being held up because the Obama administration had put too many conditions on the money.

With his health care law, President Obama wanted to make Medicaid, the federal-state health program for poor people, available to many more Americans, covering those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (currently up to $15,856 a year for an individual). But when the Supreme Court upheld the law last year, it ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion.

For states that opt in, the federal government will pay the full cost of expansion from 2014 to 2016, with its share gradually decreasing to 90 percent in 2020. So far, about two dozen governors, most of them Democrats, have said they want to expand Medicaid, the Times reports.

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