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Making Long-Term Decisions on Obamacare Premature: Governor

by Andrea Zelinski on August 17, 2012

Gov. Bill Haslam is still hesitant to say whether there are parts of the federal health care law Tennessee should refuse to implement if the law sticks.

But he says he’s so far unswayed by other Southern governors who’ve vowed to have nothing to do with putting into action parts of Obamacare states are granted discretion to control.

“It’s interesting how it’s broken down. Governors that I respect and am close to have said, ‘No, we’re not going to do it. No way, I don’t want anything to do with Obamacare,’ to others who say, ‘Well, if we’re going to have them, then we ought to run them ourselves,’” Haslam told reporters Tuesday.

The governor said his position is basically can be summed up as, “If there are going to be exchanges, that I would rather have Tennessee run it than have the federal government run it,” he said.

“But we haven’t made a final call,” he added.

GOP-led states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas have vowed to refuse to implement the federal insurance “exchanges,” which would require the federal government to operate the online insurance marketplaces where people and businesses can comparison shop.

The governor said he isn’t worried that House Speaker Beth Harwell, one of his closest political allies, has doubts the state should embrace exchanges, or any other part of the Affordable Care Act.

“That’s kind of where you should be right now until we learn more and get a little bit further down the road,” said Hasalm.

House minority-party Caucus Chairman Mike Turner this week accused Republican governors of “playing pure politics” and yielding to unrighteousness for threatening to refuse to implement Obama administration policies.

“To me it’s just punitive, it’s just wrong,” said Turner. “It’s totally un-Christian for them to even think about doing something like that. I just think it’s a terrible idea.”

“And I don’t think Gov. Haslam will go along with that,” Turner added. “I’d be shocked if he did.”

The governor said his administration expects to wait until after the November election to arm lawmakers with information about the various options to implementing Obamacare, officially titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Information will include details on the health care exchanges and whether to expand TennCare, which, according to the governor’s latest estimates, amount to some $400 million in additional costs to the state.

The governor said he expects expanding TennCare could cost about $100 million in additional people seeking health care, a cost he calls the “woodwork effect.” That’s on top of previous estimates that simply expanding the program could cost $300 million in 2017.

Lawmakers are expected to weigh options to implementing the Affordable Care Act when they return to the Legislature in January.

Haslam has noted that obviously much hangs in the balance and is dependent on the outcome of the presidential election. Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney has promised to dramatically roll back or repeal key provisions of the ACA.

“That’s kind of where you should be right now until we learn more and get a little further down the road,” said Haslam.

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