Tennessee House Republicans filed a bill on Thursday to block Medicaid expansion to the state's poorest uninsured residents. Senate Republicans are readying a bill to submit next week. It will be a top priority for the Republican super majority in Nashville.
A provision of Obamacare dictates that states extend Medicaid coverage to people within 138% of the poverty level. But, last summer's Supreme Court decision allows states to opt out of the expansion with no penalty.
Blocking the expansion will be a top priority of state Republicans, with dozens of co-sponsors on each bill.
Although the federal government has pledged to pay for 100 percent of the coverage for the first three years, it will cover 90 percent thereafter. That would cost Tennessee about $200 million a year, according to the bill filed today.
Also, legislators are skeptical of the federal government keeping its funding promise.
"The federal government has made claims that they'll pay up to 90 percent in the long run, but they've broken these promises in the past," says State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown). "Tennessee taxpayers simply cannot afford this expansion of coverage and it's important for the legislature to get out there and say we're going to protect the taxpayer dollars."
There are more than 888,000 uninsured people in Tennessee. About 144,000 of those are in Shelby County.
TNJustice.org estimates that blocking Medicaid expansion will result in about 61,000 eligible people in Shelby County being denied health care coverage.