House approves bill limiting TennCare expansion

The Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill Monday night making it harder for Gov. Bill Haslam to expand TennCare.

House lawmakers voted 69-24 to approve House Bill 937, a measure that would require Haslam to get explicit permission from the General Assembly before offering TennCare coverage to approximately 175,000 more Tennesseans as called for in the Affordable Care Act.

The vote sends the matter to the state Senate, which could take the measure up within a week. The bill appears to enjoy broad support in that chamber.

Democrats cast the bill as an indication that Republicans do nottrust the governor to do what is best for the state.

"This General Assembly has tied — you have tied — the hands of this governor," said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. "That should not happen."

But the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jeremy Durham, noted that Haslam already had pledged to get the legislature's endorsement.

"This just lays out the process," said Durham, R-Franklin.

With the Republican majority firmly opposed to Obamacare, the bill was widely expected to pass, so Democrats instead focused on forcing Republicans to vote down a series of amendments.

Those proposals included a provision requiring Haslam to release his "Tennessee Plan" to offer coverage modeled on private insurance and another measure letting him expand TennCare unilaterally.

Each failed, largely along party lines.


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