Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announces an $843,000 grant award for Northeast State Community College at the school Tuesday. Photo by Hank Hayes.
BLOUNTVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he still doesn’t have a deal with the federal government on an initiative to add enrollees to the state’s Medicaid program and feels no deadline heat to get it done.
Last May, Haslam announced he would not expand the Medicaid program, called TennCare, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but instead would work to leverage available federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for Tennesseans who would not otherwise have access to coverage.
Haslam’s “Tennessee Plan” called for leveraging available federal dollars to purchase private health insurance for Tennesseans up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level who don’t have access to health insurance, which he said would translate to 175,000 more insured Tennesseans. The plan also called for co-pays and reforming the payment structure for providers so they are compensated for health outcomes, not just based on services performed.
“Our intent is to keep working to see if a Tennessee Plan will work,” Haslam told reporters of the talks with the federal government during a stop at Northeast State Community College.
Those talks have been with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is taking heavy criticism over the faulty launch of its HealthCare.gov website to enroll people in health insurance exchanges under ACA.
“I’m concerned that obviously the plan is off to an incredibly slow start in the difficulty of getting people enrolled,” Haslam, a Republican, said of the website launch. “It seems like to me in the rush to roll it out, no one took the product for a test drive and a lot of people are spending a lot of time getting enrolled.”
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a prepared release issued on Tuesday, promised a “tech surge” to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov.
“As we work to fix the site, we encourage Americans to continue to sign up for quality affordable coverage in four ways: by phone, online, by mail and in person,” Sebelius said in the release. “Millions of Americans are already benefiting from the law, through increased benefits like preventative care at no additional costs and drug discounts for seniors. We believe the product of the law — affordable health insurance — is good, but we won’t stop until every American who wants it gains access to these new options for care.”