As Tennessee’s new Republican Governor and an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the state House and Senate show no signs of expanding Medicaid, an East Tennessee democratic lawmaker isn’t giving up.
You may remember Insure Tennessee, a failed proposal that aimed at taking the federal dollars, under the Affordable Care Act, to help the working poor in Tennessee coverage.
Under the ACA, the federal government would pay to expand Medicaid, or TennCare as it’s known throughout the Volunteer State, and insure thousands of Tennesseans.
Governor Bill Lee stands by the belief that it’s better to work toward lowering healthcare costs than expand TennCare across the state.
State Representative Gloria Johnson (D-13), one of the few Democrats in our viewing area, is still optimistic it can happen.
In a state budget meeting Wednesday, nothing was mentioned about expanding Medicaid, according to WKRN. Johnson says she isn’t giving up.
“People get discouraged because of say, the Governor is not for it. We’ve got a new Governor. He’s got to listen to the people and I think he will do that. We’ve just got to keep making our case,” she said.
Johnson believes taking the check from the federal government and insuring more than 300,000 Tennesseans, would also save the state money and rural hospitals.
On Lee’s plan to cut costs, Johnson said, “I haven’t really seen a plan from Governor Lee as of yet…the reality is, if you want to do this, the money is available for Medicaid expansion. And it’s Tennessee tax dollars coming back to Tennessee.”
A poll from April 2018, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, found 63 percent of Tennesseans support expansion. Although the poll may show a majority agrees with Johnson, her political party serves as the minority in Nashville.
Right now, the Republicans maintain a supermajority with 73 to 26 seats held by the GOP.
“I don’t get discouraged because I know it is right for Tennessee. I know there are hundreds of thousands of people in Tennessee who want it to happen. We will continue to fight for those folks,” Johnson said.
Although it hasn’t been voted on, TennCare is set to cost the state $12 billion next year.
Johnson also believes the federal funds would mean less state spending on covering the disadvantaged throughout Tennessee.
Ultimately, she thinks, as Gov. Lee hears from more people in the state and realizes the economic potential, he’ll come to the table on expansion.
Rep. Johnson says Tennessee House Democrats will keep pushing for expansion.