Haslam Rejects Obama’s Medicaid Expansion Offer for Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam won’t extend Medicaid for the poor under President Barack Obama’s health-care law, saying it might put hospitals in financial jeopardy.

Haslam, 55, a Republican, told lawmakers yesterday that Obama’s health-care overhaul might force hospitals to close as they lose money now channeled to caring for the poor.

“I know it’s harder to identify with the image of a struggling hospital than a struggling Tennessean, but they’ve been put in a very difficult position by the Affordable Care Act as well,” he said.

At least eight of 30 Republican governors in the U.S. have backed Medicaid expansion. Of those, the five in states where their party also controls the legislature -- Florida’s Rick Scott, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Ohio’s John Kasich, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota -- are facing the toughest opposition. These clashes show how difficult it will be for Obama to get his Medicaid plan widely adopted.

Other Republicans, such as Rick Perry of Texas and now Haslam, have rejected an expansion, saying it’s too costly.

Haslam’s decision means that 140,000 Tennesseans will go without free coverage, the Associated Press reported.

Obama’s health law, which passed Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote, may extend insurance over the next decade to about 27 million people nationwide. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 8 million more will enroll in Medicaid programs next year because of the expansion.

-- Editors: Stephen Merelman, Mark Schoifet

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