State Representative Joe Armstrong of Knoxville put out the call for expanding Medicaid last week, publishing a Valentine's Day love letter to expansion on a national Democratic Party website.
Calling Medicaid expansion "one of the most important issues to face the Tennessee General Assembly in more than 20 years," Armstrong said expanding the program would benefit veterans, working class families, pregnant women and babies — and the Tennessee economy. But Gov. Bill Haslam has said Medicaid expansion would negatively impact the state, particularly when the federal funding drops from 100 to 90 percent after the first three years.
"It's all this federal money," Haslam said, as reported by The Daily News. "It will help hospitals and it will give people better health coverage. All that is true. The flip side is Medicaid already takes a huge portion of our budget. As we expand that, that will make a bigger issue. The expansion didn't prove a way to have better health outcomes. It just increased the number of people we covered."
But increased coverage is particularly relevant in health care-heavy Nashville. Hospital executives and analysts have both called Haslam's decision not to expand Medicaid purely political, saying states that have expanded coverage will see an improvement to their bottom lines.
Haslam continues to negotiate with the federal government, but maintains that the current terms of expanded Medicaid are not cost-effective for the state.