Roe defends vote for house GOP budget plan

Hank Hayes • Mar 21, 2013 at 1:40 AM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe defended his vote today for a House GOP budget plan calling for a balanced federal budget but also would repeal expanding Medicaid coverage to most non-elderly residents.

Both Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and Wellmont Health Systems are lobbying Tennessee lawmakers and Gov. Bill Haslam to expand the federal government-supported Medicaid program providing health care coverage for low income Tennesseans.

"I understand why the hospitals are doing that," Roe, R-Tenn., said in a conference call with reporters. "They are looking for anybody they can get revenue from. We need to reform the Medicaid system. It’s a bad system for our poor people in our country."

Wellmont, MSHA and the Tennessee Hospital Association warn thousands of health care jobs might be lost in the future without the Medicaid expansion.

Still, the GOP-controlled House today passed the so-called "Path To Prosperity" budget plan, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, while also passing a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of September.

Ryan’s plan would overturn most provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the requirement that most legal U.S. residents obtain health insurance.

Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding ACA gave states the option whether to expand their Medicaid programs.

The Ryan plan would take money designated for expanding Medicaid and give it to states as block grants to provide coverage themselves. Roe pointed to a study suggesting Medicaid enrollees have poorer outcomes and higher mortality rates than people with health insurance.

"I would walk very carefully on expanding Medicaid unless we let the states control it better than they do now," Roe, a retired obstetrican/gynecologist, insisted.

Senate Democrats, in contrast, have offered a competing budget plan that would increase spending and taxes, according to Roe.

House Republicans, Roe said, met with President Barack Obama last week to discuss federal spending, although Obama has not submitted his own budget proposal.

"(Obama) said he didn’t think it was necessary to have a date certain to balance the budget," Roe said of the meeting. "...The second thing he said was he needs more tax revenue, which means more increased taxes. Our side of the aisle is saying ‘We don’t want to raise taxes...federal spending is too high. Revenue is at an all-time high.’"

Roe also responded to a Republican National Committee report suggesting the Republican Party’s message and ground operation were insufficient for GOP challenger Mitt Romney to beat Obama in last November’s presidential election.

"The national media has beaten our brand into the ground," Roe charged. "Do we need to make some changes? Absolutely, but remember Republican governors control 30 of the governorships around this country and a majority of the (state) legislatures...I think our message of fiscal responsibility is spot on."

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