A bill described as a firewall against Obamacare in Tennessee could wipe out the state budget, an analysis released Monday by legislative analysts suggests.
The legislature's Fiscal Review Committee, number crunchers who gauge the impact bills filed in the General Assembly would have on the state's finances, says in a report put out Monday that the Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act could cost the state more than $32.8 billion in penalties. The measure filed last month by several Middle Tennessee lawmakers is meant to keep state and local government from buying insurance on Healthcare.gov or enforcing its insurance mandate.
But it also could be construed as barring Tennessee from following many other provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including a section that requires employers to distribute a summary of benefits to their workers. If that were applied to the nearly 150,000 public workers in Tennessee whose health plans are run by the Department of Finance and Administration, the state could be forced to pay nearly $32.5 billion in penalties.
Other restrictions imposed by the bill could open the state to another $300 million or so in fines. And in addition to all of those penalties, the state could lose $6.5 billion in federal funding for TennCare, analysts said.
By comparison, Gov. Bill Haslam's entire budget proposal was $32.6 billion.
This appears to be the biggest fiscal note that has been attached to a bill in years — perhaps ever. Not surprisingly, the measure's sponsor, state Sen. Mae Beavers, disputes the calculations. She asked the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, which was scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday, to delay debate until staffers from Fiscal Review explain their analysis.