Haslam: No State Health Care Exchange

By Bill Dries

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told a Nashville Rotary Club audience Monday, Dec. 10, that the state will not operate its own health care insurance exchange.

Such an exchange is one option available to states under terms of the federal Affordable Care Act. A state exchange is an alternative to a requirement that every state participate in a federal exchange.

Haslam termed the highly anticipated decision 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,” according to a statement issued by Haslam’s office immediately following the Nashville appearance.

In the announcement, Haslam issued a blistering political denunciation of the federal act upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

“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,” said the Republican governor. “The Obama administration has set an aggressive timeline to implement exchanges, while there is a 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.”

Tennessee House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh accused Haslam of "pandering to the far right of his party," in a statement.

"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," Fitzhugh added.

Responding for the House's Republican majority, Tennessee Representative Barrett Rich described Haslam's decision as "about principle" and he was also critical of federal officials for not providing enough information.

"It is now readily apparent all of this is just a smokescreen for further federal government control over our lives," Rich said.

Haslam cited more than 800 pages of draft rules for a state run exchange he and his administration worked through since the Nov. 6 elections in making the decision. He said the rules “actually limit state decisions about running an exchange more than we expected.”

Haslam sent the formal notice of his decision to federal officials Monday and said he could reconsider the decision “if conditions warrant in the future and it makes sense at a later date for Tennessee to run the exchange.”