NASHVILLE (AP) – Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey expects fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to announce by Friday's deadline that Tennessee will move ahead with plans to create a state-run health insurance exchange.
But Ramsey stressed to reporters on Thursday that a final decision is still months away about whether the state or the federal government will ultimately run the health care marketplace required under Democratic President Barack Obama's federal health care law.
"All that really does is kick the can down the road – as the federal government has done with this – and leave our options open," Ramsey said.
"Common sense would tell you that any time the state could run something, it is better than the federal government running something," he said. "But common sense and Obamacare don't go in the same sentence."
Ramsey called it "arrogant" for the federal government to demand states make a decision when so many details about what the exchanges will entail are still lacking. He said keeping options open about a state-run state exchange would give the governor and lawmakers more time to make an informed decision.
Key issues include how much flexibility would be granted to the states if they run their own exchanges.
"Why would we want to have a state-run authority when we only really get to run 10 to maybe 20 percent of it?" he said. "The federal government's still running 80 percent of it, yet we get 100 percent of the blame."
Ramsey said he expected the issue of how – and at what level – to comply with the federal health care law would be a major focus of lawmakers when they return in January.
Haslam spokesman David Smith said the governor was still reviewing his options.
"The governor continues to gather information, and no decision has been made," he said.
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