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VOL. 129 | NO. 46 | Friday, March 07, 2014

Senate Passes Medicaid Legislative Approval Bill

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE (AP) – A proposal that requires Gov. Bill Haslam to secure legislative approval for any potential deal to expand Medicaid in Tennessee has passed the Senate even though the Republican governor has already said he would consult with lawmakers.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was approved 23-6 on Thursday. The House passed the legislation 69-24 last month.

Haslam has pledged that he would seek legislative approval to expand TennCare, the state's Medicaid program that provides health care for 1.2 million Tennesseans.

Haslam said last month that he has asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make a counterproposal to Tennessee's efforts to carve out a special deal for Medicaid expansion.

He said he had met with Sebelius twice during a visit to Washington, and that she was aware of the state's requests to use the federal money to subsidize private insurance and promote healthier lifestyles through a series of incentives.

The governor last year declined to accept the Medicaid money without special arrangements for the state. So far, negotiations have been fruitless.

As for the proposal that passed Thursday, some Republican leaders acknowledged it's not necessary but gets a point across.

"I think it sends a message to our constituents that we're watching their money," said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey acknowledged later to reporters that the bill is a bit redundant, but the Blountville Republican said "there are some that felt more strongly that anything could happen; let's put this in law."

Senate Democrats filed a slate of amendments to the bill that would create a limited expansion of Medicaid services to cover veterans and individuals with intellectual disabilities. However, those measures failed.

"For those people, the least of these, we're going to ask to expand Medicaid," said Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis. "On the way home today, every legislator will see someone who would be impacted by our amendments."

Kyle was successful in amending the bill to say that if the governor reaches an agreement and a special session is called to approve the expansion, then lawmakers would return at their own expense.

"It will save us money," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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