Monday, February 09, 2015

Tennessee, Wyoming reject Medicaid expansion; Arkansas votes to end private option

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's attempt to expand Medicaid died in a state senate committee last week after the bill received strong opposition from a powerful conservative group, Perry Bacon reports for NBC News. Under the agreement between the Obama Administration and Haslem, "Tennessee would accept more than $1 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid, as allowed for in the Affordable Care Act, but Obama aides would allow Haslam to essentially write staunchly conservative ideas into the program's rules for the state."

But Americans for Prosperity, the national conservative group whose foundation is chaired by controversial billionaire David Koch, "argued Haslam was just trying to trick conservatives into implementing Obamacare in their state by giving it a new name," Bacon writes. "AFP campaigned aggressively Haslam's plans for the next six weeks, even running radio ads blasting GOP state legislators who said they might vote for it."

Despite Haslam's popularity among Republicans—receiving 70 percent of the vote in November and having an 86 percent approval rating—fellow Republicans weren't buying what he was selling. Seven Republicans on the 11-member committee shot down the plan, Dave Boucher reports for The Tennessean. Haslam told reporters,  "I think this whole sense of distrust of the federal government. Well, I could've told you that was, that our legislature felt that way (before the special session). It was so much bigger than I thought." Expansion would have funded health insurance to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

The Wyoming Senate last week rejected Medicaid expansion by a 19 to 11 vote, James Chilton reports for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Opposing Republican senators argued against the bill, saying that they didn't trust the federal government to keep up its end of the bargain to pay costs or that expansion would only increase the national debt. Expansion would have helped insure 17,000 residents.

In Arkansas last week, the House passed a bill "to end the Medicaid private option by the end of 2016 and find another solution for the state's health-care program," Daniella Kloap reports for ArkansasOnline. "The House passed the legislation with 80 for, 16 against and three voting present, and the bill will go back to the Senate for approval after representatives amended the bill to add co-sponsors."

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