NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam formally went on record Monday opposing a bill aimed at blocking Tennessee from expanding its version of Medicaid, TennCare, under the federal Affordable Care Act.
In a "flag" letter to the House sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, Haslam's director for legislation, Leslie Hafner said "after having carefully reviewed your bill, HB 937, the administration assigned a flag for philosophical reasons."
While the administration "understands that this is an important issue to you ... the administration, however, respectfully disagrees with this legislation in its current form."
Haslam has said he wants to keep his options open about expansion while he decides whether he will recommend the move to state lawmakers.
Haslam spokesman David Smith noted the governor also has flagged a Senate Democrat's bill that authorizes the administration to proceed with the Medicaid expansion. Smith did not elaborate immediately on the flag letters.
Durham said while he understands Haslam's reservations, he intends to press forward with the legislation and a vote in subcommittee.
"Absolutely," he said, noting he and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, announced they would push the legislation back in October.
Asked if the flag indicates to him that Haslam is now leaning toward expansion or simply doesn't want to have his hands tied as he weighs a decision, Durham pointed out that the letter says the governor is "philosophically opposed to the bill in its current form."
"Current form says Tennessee will not take part in expanding Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare. So, that tells me he's not in agreement we shouldn't expand Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare."
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...