Democrats marked the anniversary of Gov. Bill Haslam's promise to seek a "Tennessee Plan" to expand Medicaid to more people with a press conference Thursday in which they urged him to take action.
The Republican governor promised a year ago that he would work with federal officials to develop a unique expansion program that would offer coverage to about 175,000 low-income Tennesseans modeled after private health insurance. But several members of the state House of Representatives said he has been too slow to complete his proposal.
"Tennesseans can no longer wait for Governor Haslam to find political cover to expand Medicaid," said state Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville. "We need real leadership today."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Nashville Thursday, in part to push for Medicaid expansion. But earlier Thursday, the state legislature gave final approval to House Bill 937, a measure that requires the governor to get the General Assembly's permission before expanding TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.
The bill, which illustrates the widespread opposition to Medicaid expansion in the Republican-dominated General Assembly, now goes to the governor's office.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay the full, $1 billion cost of expansion until 2017 and 90 percent or more through 2020. Republicans fear the state could be on the hook for the expense afterward.