Governor Bill Haslam announced Monday the state will not operate a state-based healthcare exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act. Governor Haslam made the following statement on the issue:
“Tennessee faces a decision this week about health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m not a fan of the law. The more I know, the more harmful I think it will be for small businesses and costly for state governments and the federal government. It does nothing to address the cost of health care in our country. It only expands a broken system. That’s why I’ve opposed it from the beginning and had hoped we would be successful in court and at the ballot box this year.
“Now we’re faced with the fact that the law remains, and it requires every state to participate in an insurance exchange. Our decision is whether the state or federal government should run it, and the deadline for that decision is Friday.
“I’ve said that I think Tennessee could run a state exchange cheaper and better, and my natural inclination is to keep the federal government out of our business as much as possible. What our administration has been working to understand is whether we’d have the flexibility for it to be a true state-based exchange, how the data exchange would work, and if it would work.
“Since the presidential election, we’ve received 800-plus pages of draft rules from the federal government, some of which actually limit state decisions about running an exchange more than we expected.
“The Obama administration has set an aggressive timeline to implement exchanges, while there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the process will actually work. What has concerned me more and more is that they seem to be making this up as they go.
“In weighing all of the information we currently have, I informed the federal government today that Tennessee will not run a state-based exchange. If conditions warrant in the future and it makes sense at a later date for Tennessee to run the exchange, we would consider that as an option at the appropriate time.
“This decision comes after months of consideration and analysis. It is a business decision based on what is best for Tennesseans with the information we have now that we’ve pressed hard to receive from Washington. If this were a political decision, it would’ve been easy, and I would’ve made it a long time ago.
“I believe my job is to get to the right answer. That’s what Tennesseans expect of me and elected me to do.”
Assistant House Majority Leader Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) said, “After all the research and dialogue with Washington, Governor Haslam reached the conclusion many of us expected: Tennessee will not be creating any exchange associated with ObamaCare. I appreciate the Governor’s diligence on this matter and the fact he has stood up for our principles once again.
“Tennessee now stands firmly on the side of states that believe Washington has created a colossal mistake that will either collapse under its own weight or fail to get off the ground because of its expense. Either way, history will show Tennessee made the right decision.”
House Speaker Beth Harwell said, "As I have stated many times before, I am vehemently opposed to Obamacare and the mandates that come along with it. The decisions regarding healthcare are best left to each Tennessean and their doctor - not a massive bureaucracy that is sure to send this country further into debt.
"The federal government has not been forthcoming with details and information on the specifics of how to comply with setting up a state exchange, leading Governor Haslam to conclude that is not the best route for Tennessee, and I agree. Tennessee is fortunate to have a governor who thoughtfully arrived at this decision, and I appreciate his work on this issue."
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada (R-Franklin) said, “With this decision, Governor Haslam proved - once again - he is continuously looking out for the best interests of Tennesseans. I applaud the Governor for taking a deliberate approach and gathering all available facts and perspectives about this complex issue.
“It is readily apparent the federal government is making up rules for ObamaCare as it goes along. To have tied Tennessee to that albatross would have undermined our state in a number of ways. Ultimately, the costs and constitutional concerns associated with government-run exchanges were just too burdensome.
“Democrats, who are on the outside looking in and have an insatiable appetite for government largesse, will try and paint this as a political decision by the Governor. That could not be further from the truth. The fact is, on this day, the Governor stood up for our Tennessee principles and all of us should appreciate his decision.”
Democratic State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh said, “I’m disappointed to see the Governor pandering to the far right of his party rather than doing what is best for the people of Tennessee. I would hate to know that I had a 70 percent approval rating statewide, and couldn’t get my own party to support my initiatives.
”State-based exchanges have enjoyed bi-partisan support historically. Former Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wrote in an op-ed recently that it would be 'best for Tennessee to develop its own exchange because exchanges are an innovative, market-driven strategy, which foster competition, choice, cost-savings and quality among insurers.'"
“While the Governor is able to fall back on the federal government to handle these health care exchanges, he won’t be able to shirk the responsibility for participating in the Medicaid expansion. If we don’t participate in the new Medicaid program, we’ll be leaving $10.5 billion in federal dollars on the table. Punting on this issue would hurt Tennessee businesses, working families, and rural hospitals.”
Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said, “It is disappointing that our Governor found it too difficult to do what 23 other states have begun to do – implement their own health insurance exchange. In the end, if Governor Haslam was unable to convince his party to reject partisan politics and do the right thing, perhaps it was best for him to allow the federal government to begin setting up an exchange for him.”
Nicole Kaeding, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) state policy manager, said, “AFP applauds the actions of Governor Haslam to reject creating a health insurance exchange in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee’s participation in an exchange would increase insurance premiums on consumers and taxes on its hardworking families.
“Federal funds are flowing freely to buy state compliance, but state budgets will take the hit in two short years. Governor Haslam showed real leadership in rejecting these temporary funds.
"Many governors joined together to send a strong message to Washington. AFP commends Governor Haslam for his leadership in protecting the Volunteer State."
She said more than 20 governors have announced that they will not create an exchange. This list now includes Terry Branstad (IA), Mike Pence (IN), Dave Heineman (NE), Paul LePage (ME), Robert Bentley (AL), Bobby Jindal (LA), Sam Brownback (KS), Rick Perry (TX), Nikki Haley (SC), Nathan Deal (GA), Robert McDonnell (VA), Jay Nixon (MO) and others.
The federal government is offering unlimited grants to states to create an exchange between now and the end of 2014. All exchanges must be self-funding starting in 2015. Each governor must notify the federal government by Friday of his or her decision whether to create a state-based health insurance exchange, defer to the federal government or partner on a hybrid-exchange.
Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland) said, "I believe Tennessee has done the right thing when it comes to rejecting the state-creation of an ObamaCare health care exchange. The more I know, the more harmful I think it will be for small businesses and costly for state governments and the federal government.
"It does nothing to address the cost of health care in our country. It only expands a broken system. That’s why I’ve opposed it from the beginning and had hoped we would be successful in court and at the ballot box this year.
"Since the presidential election, Tennessee has received 800-plus pages of draft rules from the federal government, some of which actually limit state decisions about running an exchange more than we expected. What has concerned me more and more is that they seem to be making this up as they go.
"In weighing all of the information we currently have, Governor Haslam informed the federal government that Tennessee will not run a state-based exchange. This decision comes after months of consideration and analysis.
"It is a business decision, not a political one, based on what is best for Tennesseans with the information we have now that we’ve pressed hard to receive from Washington. The fact is, the Governor stood up for our Tennessee principles and all of us should appreciate his decision."