Latest health plan draws support from top Tenn. Republicans, criticism from veterans

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Potentially two million Tennesseans could be affected by a new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, which is now being backed by both Governor Bill Haslam and both of the state’s U.S. senators but heavily criticized by some veterans Wednesday.

Much of the support and criticism centers on a key part of the plan that gives states like Tennessee block grants of federal money to run Medicaid programs like TennCare, which cover lower-income individuals.

Haslam was among 15 other Republican governors who sent a letter to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell supporting what is called the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The governor told News 2 in a statement, “I support a plan that responsibly and adequately funds block grants to states and provides maximum flexibility and control to states. The Graham-Cassidy legislation can meet both of these provisions and benefit Tennesseans by returning more of Tennesseans’ taxpayer dollars to the state to serve the health care needs of our citizens.”

Not so sure of the governor’s view is Air Force vet Kelly Gregory, who is currently on the state’s TennCare program.

“Almost 2 million veterans in the U.S. depend on Medicaid for their health care,” she told reporters she gathered outside Nashville’s Veterans Hospital.

Here’s what Kelly said she told Senator Lamar Alexander’s office by phone this week.

“I told the young lady that answered the telephone that I was a terminal cancer patient who relied on Medicaid, and if this bill passes I would lose what little access I had to health care and it would hasten my death,” Gregory told the reporters.

Behind her was Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart, who is also a veteran.

“This bill is being rammed through at the last moment to undermine health care without any real debate,” said Stewart. “What we know is the non-partisan Rand Corporation, the only non-partisan group to weigh in, says this will be a travesty.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, who dropped his plans for a limited bi-partisan health care plan late Tuesday, told News 2, “I would like to vote for Graham-Cassidy because I like block grants and it appears to be good for Tennessee.”

Senator Corker indicated support as well in a statement.

“From the beginning of this debate, I have said that I want to generate an outcome that is better for the American people than what is in place today, and at present, I am very encouraged by the fact that the Graham-Cassidy legislation repeals the core elements of Obamacare and its one-size-fits-all approach and provides the flexibility governors across our country have been seeking for years,” said Corker.

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