Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that his administration has struggled to find out how many Tennesseans have enrolled for health insurance through the federal government's new exchanges.
Potentially just a few hundred people have made it through the online process, he said.
"The last time I heard the number was something in the low hundreds -- 250 or 300 (enrolled). I do not have a new number on that," he said. "Obviously, that's been disappointing for everybody."
Federal officials have said more than 700,000 people have created accounts to buy insurance nationwide, but they have not said how many people have actually enrolled.
Haslam stood by his decision to forego creation of a state-run marketplace for health plans, which left Tennesseans to enroll through a federal website.
The governor acknowledged that some but not all states have had more success enrolling residents than the federal government.
"In the end, we felt like it was their program. They're the ones who suggested it and it would be better in this initial stage that they ran it," he said. "The thought being, at the time, that having two cooks in the kitchen when you're trying to put together something that complex would make it that much more difficult."
The state of expansion talks
During a brief exchange with reporters, Haslam also discussed an ongoing conversation with federal officials regarding a possible expansion of TennCare, the state's Medicaid program that allows low-income families to get health care.
He said talks have slowed recently because federal officials have been busy responding to problems with the health care exchanges.
"In Tennessee we're appropriately cautious because we've had our Medicaid rolls outgrow our ability to pay for it," he said.
Haslam has insisted on separating the health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion decisions.
He recently told the Associated Press that the state isn't trying to block anyone from the exchange.
Associations representing the state's doctors and nurses have called on Haslam and lawmakers to expand TennCare, in part because the Affordable Care Act is ending subsidies for hospitals that treat large proportions of uninsured patients.
The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs of insuring new people brought onto state Medicaid rolls through 2016, as provided by the new federal health care law, phasing down to a 90 percent matching rate in 2020.