(Story updated at 4:30 p.m. ET.)
Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced his alternative pathway to expand Medicaid in the state with a unique voucher program for low-income employed individuals. He also announced a surprising partnership with hospitals to help fund the expansion.
The initiative, known as the Insure Tennessee plan, is a two-year pilot program to provide healthcare coverage to about 200,000 low-income, uninsured adults who are eligible for Medicaid expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The plan must still be approved by the state Legislature and the CMS before going into effect.
In a twist that makes this expansion plan different from those in other states, Tennessee hospitals have agreed to cover the state's portion of the cost when the federal match decreases below 100% after 2016. If the federal match were to ever drop below 90%, Insure Tennessee will automatically end, according to state proposal documents.
“The benefit we saw from doing this is the investment would likely come back sevenfold from what we would save from reducing our uninsured costs,” Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association.
Tennessee hospitals provided more than $2.4 billion in uncompensated care in 2012, up from $765 million in 2001, according to the association. Presumably what hospitals contribute to the new plan will produce a net savings for hospitals
He said his members agree with the state that the hospitals should not continue to be covering the difference once the federal match drops below 90%. “There are limits to what we can do,” Becker said.