Gov. Haslam's decision doesn't close door on state-run exchange

Gov. Haslam's decision doesn't close door on state-run health care exchange

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By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Gov. Bill Haslam's decision to not operate a state-run health care exchange leaves the door open to reverse that decision at a later date.

State Republicans and Democrats agree Tennessee would be better off running its own health insurance exchange, but for now Haslam has decided the exchange system mandated by the Affordable Care Act will be run by the federal government.

Haslam says uncertainty over regulations for the exchange, as well as Tennessee's past attempt at health care reform influenced his decision.

"The Obama Administration has set an aggressive timeline to implement exchanges," Haslam said in a statement released after his decision was announced. "While there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the process will actually work, what has concerned me more and more is that they seem to be making this up as they go."

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe says he agrees with Gov. Haslam's decision to allow the federal government to run the exchange program.

"We can't get answers from the government, so what they're doing is essentially saying, 'Here, let's sign a check and we'll fill in the amount some time in the future.' For Tennessee this is not our first rodeo," Rep. Roe said.

Former health care executive Craig Griffith says people who receive benefits under the Affordable Care Act will still receive health insurance, but a state-run system could be more effective. 

"We can tailor it for some of the issues facing Tennessee," Griffith said. "Obviously we have a lot of obesity. We have smoking problems, stuff like that. A policy could be tailored to fit the average Tennessean, as opposed to the average person in Colorado or Utah."

Griffith says he agrees with the governor's decision, saying the rules for the exchange system were changing daily and there was a great deal of uncertainty for the state.

"I think it's very difficult to say what the end result will be until it comes into operation," Griffith added.

Haslam says his decision "is a business decision based on what is best for Tennesseans, with the information we have now that we've pressed hard to receive from Washington. If this were a political decision, it would've been easy and I would've made it a long time ago."

Roe said the governor could do the best job of running the exchange if he was the one making the rules, but that's not the case.

"It's the law of the land and we're going to have to work with it," said Roe.

Haslam says he would revaluate the decision in the future if conditions change.

State Democrats issued a statement saying they were disappointed in the governor's decision.

"It is disappointing the governor found it too difficult to do what 23 other states have begun to do, implement their own health insurance exchange," Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said. 

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