Two Tennessee senators announced Monday they will introduce legislation to prevent expansion of the Tennessee Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare.”
State Sens. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) said they will file the bill the day after the 108th Tennessee General Assembly is elected in November.
“Unlike Washington, Tennessee balances its budget every year,” Kelsey said. “Tennessee taxpayers cannot afford this expansion of spending. The federal government may be promising money today, but with $16 trillion of debt, those funds will not be there tomorrow.”
Kelsey has two years remaining in his four-year term, and Durham is unopposed for the District 65 seat in the State House of Representatives.
The legislation states Tennessee “shall not establish, facilitate, implement or participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
As drafted, the Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid coverage from low-income adults with children to all individuals below 133 percent of the poverty level.
A recent study conducted by the University of Tennessee, however, reported the number of uninsured residents is at its lowest point since 2005.
The Affordable Care Act punished states that chose not to expand enrollment with not only loss of the expansion funds but also loss of all Medicaid funds, which amount to almost 20 percent of the Tennessee budget.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress can deny the expansion funds but not all Medicaid funds. Now states have an option whether to expand the Medicaid programs.
Under the health care law, Congress promised to pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion funds in the first few years but only 90 percent of the funds in future years.
"Tennessee taxpayers simply cannot afford the long-term financial burden of expanding our Medicaid rolls,” Durham said. "This is one of those times in which legislators must exercise fiscal responsibility and tell the federal government, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’"
Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen described ObamaCare as "the mother of all unfunded mandates" and said it would cost Tennessee taxpayers more than $1 billion in the next five years.