Who’d a’ thunk it? Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal for accepting federal Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act, theoretically buried in February by an adverse vote on an ad hoc state Senate committee, has risen, Lazarus-like, and is up and moving again.
Senate Joint Resolution 93, substantially the same measure that was voted down 7-4 in a special session by a specially constituted Health and Welfare Committee (and mothballed thereafter, apparently for good) has passed two hurdles this week on its way back to consideration.
On Monday, a Senate Health and Welfare subcommittee on TennCare approved the measure, which contained some relatively minor tweaks, by a 3-2 vote, and on Wednesday, the regular Senate Health Committee voted for the resolution 6-2. Tellingly, perhaps, one of the Aye votes this time came from Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), who had voted no on it during the abortive special session.
“The vote shows that there is a growing sentiment in favor of Insure Tennessee here in the legislature, and if we break through a few procedural hurdles, we will be in a position to do something that polls show the people of Tennessee want,” Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) told the Flyer Wednesday night.
Yarbro is a prime sponsor of SJR 93, along with Republican Senators Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville).
Meanwhile, over in the House, Rep. Larry Miller (D-Memphis) put the House version of the measure, HJR 90 on notice in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee but had it rolled (deferred) to next week, pending further action in the Senate. Miller took his action before he learned of the Senate Health Committee’s 6-2 vote. Upon learning of it, he professed to be all the more optimistic that Insure Tennessee has new life.
SJR 93 is due for consideration next week by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, where it will face the strictest test since its sudden and unexpected revival this week. That committee is chaired by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), one of the Senate’s most conservative members, and there are more than a few other Republican hardliners on it who would not be expected to favor a measure that can be associated with Obamacare, the GOP’s word for the Affordable Care Act.
Even should the measure receive a negative committee vote there, however, proponents of Insure Tennessee are beginning to question whether a resolution, as against a bill outright, can actually be derailed by a single committee vote, and are wondering out loud if a bill passed last year requiring legislative approval of Medicaid expansion actually applies prohibitively to an executive action by the Governor.