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Rep. Jim Cooper signs on to bill to assist Tennessee with Medicaid expansion

Rep. Jim Cooper (D) has signed onto H.R.2688 which is designed to encourage states that have not expanded Medicaid to do so now.  As one of 14 states that did not expand Medicaid, Tennessee missed out on billions of dollars in federal funding.  This bill amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act to provide the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) to every state that expands Medicaid coverage for individuals who are newly eligible under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, regardless of when such expansion takes place.

Under current law, the enhanced FMAP is equivalent to 100% in 2014 through 2016, 95% in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and 90% thereafter. The bill retains this enhanced FMAP, but bases it on a term of years rather than on specific dates.  This would provide Tennessee with 100% funding for the first 2 years, then 95% funding for one year, 94% funding for 1 year, 93% for one year, then 90% thereafter.  This is essentially a “do-over” and provides the governor and state legislature with no excuse to continue to block the expansion of Medicaid.

Tennessee has the highest per capita rural hospital closure rate in the country.  McKenzie hospital, the most recent closure, had a patient insurance coverage rate of less than 4%.  This is not sustainable for small hospitals.

Governor Bill Lee is opposed to Medicaid expansion and instead says he would “seek ways to lower health costs and premiums.”  He has not indicated how he would accomplish that.  Medicaid is the fastest, most efficient way to lower health care costs for 300,000 Tennesseans currently without any coverage and Medicaid expansion is publicly supported by a 2/3 majority of Tennesseans.

While our legislators have been covered by good government sponsored health insurance, they have continued to deny the same to 300.000 of their fellow Tennesseans.  As Cooper said, “The bill would give our state zero excuses not to act now.”  No more excuses.  It is time to do the right thing.