Senate leader calls Medicaid talks waste of time

Friday, November 1, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 44

NASHVILLE (AP) - State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he would be against an effort to expand Medicaid even if fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam successfully negotiated a special deal for Tennessee.

Ramsey told reporters Monday that the troubled rollout of the federal health insurance exchanges since Oct. 1 has firmed up his view that the state should not accept federal dollars to cover more uninsured people.

The online insurance marketplaces and the Medicaid expansions are part of President Barack Obama's health care law. Tennessee is among 36 states that have deferred operation of the exchanges to the federal government, and Haslam in March declined to accept $1.4 billion in federal funds to cover about 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans under the terms the money was offered.

The governor said last week that he doesn't believe negotiations will lead to an agreement on Medicaid expansion before the new year.

But Ramsey said his pre ference would be to wait as long as two years before deciding how to proceed. Asked whether the governor's ongoing negotiations were futile, Ramsey said: "As of Oct. 1, yes, I think he's wasting his time."

Haslam spokesman David Smith said Ramsey's comments don't change the administration's plans.

"It doesn't change his approach," Smith said in an email. "There's no timetable for this, and any concerns in the legislature are part of the process."