Local lawmakers see possibility for Medicaid expansion in TN

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- As lawmakers in D.C. prepare to do away with the Affordable Care Act, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding what healthcare coverage will look like in Tennessee.

Local lawmakers told us this year may be the time to expand health coverage in Tennessee.

Thousands of people here in the Tri-Cities fall in to a gap, making too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance. Expanding Medicaid would close that gap, but lawmakers are still wrestling with just how to do that.

The latest proposed plan to close that gap in Tennessee was Governor Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” a plan shot down by other lawmakers, refusing to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion.

“What our concern has been on the state level is how do you not create this huge tax that everybody else is going to have to pay because those were the strings that were attached from D.C.” Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) said.

Now President-Elect Donald Trump is preparing to enter the White House.

“I think he’s going to give a lot more power back to the states and by that happening it’ll give us a lot more opportunity to see what we need to do to move Tennessee forward,” Rep. John Crawford, (R-Kingsport) said.

One possible way of giving the states more power is block grants which would be blocks of money from the federal government giving the states freedom on how to spend it.

“There are things that I read and heard from the incoming Trump administration, that I’ve heard from Congressman (Phil) Roe, is formulating that into block grants which is what we talked about years ago if we could do that and without strings have the ability to spend money …that’s the way to do this and if that’s what comes down the pipe I think we’re going the right way,” Lundberg said.

Lundberg said for this reason he sees more hope now than ever of Tennessee accepting money from the federal government for Medicaid expansion.

But Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) said with that power, also comes a heavy burden for the state.

“We’re going to be in charge of our own fate and that’s good on one hand because we get to have control at the state level there’s also a tremendous responsibility because we have to do it and do it well because there’s nothing holding us back,” Hill said.

Lundberg said he sees block grants as a bridge, but not a permanent solution.

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