Local News

Story published: 03-05-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Commission votes to support MSHA stance on Medicaid Expansion legislation

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

At least one county commissioner was having second thoughts about the enthusiastic response the commission gave to the request for support of the Medicaid Expansion legislation during the Feb. 25 meeting.

“Joe Grandy called me the next day and asked if there is another side (to the issue),” Mayor Dan Eldridge said.

Marvin Eichorn, chief financial officer for Mountain States Health Alliance, spoke for 25 minutes about the benefits of the proposed legislation, including warnings of disastrous consequences if Tennessee decides to opt out.

According to information from Eichorn, who also spoke to the Budget Committee earlier in the month, the Affordable Care Act will reduce Medicare payments by $5.6 billion over the next 10 years.

That reduction was supposed to be offset by virtually eliminating the uninsured population through the expansion of the Medicaid program and introduction of health insurance exchanges.

Eichorn said the expansion would provide insurance for 300,000 Tennesseans, whose medical expenses often had to be written off by the hospitals as charity cases.

“The cuts have already been made by law,” he told commissioners. “We’re trying to get people in Nashville to vote to accept the money (from the expansion.)”

“If the state is giving away health insurance, won’t more people want on it?” Commissioner Alpha Bridger asked.

Eichorn said there are eligibility requirement to qualify for Medicare.

“This is about jobs in Washington County,” Commissioner Lee Chase said in his motion, seconded by Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham, to send a resolution urging lawmakers in Nashville to vote for the expansion.

The motion passed with Commissioner Mark Larkey the only one opposed.

Chase said the governor may need to make a decision before the resolution could be approved, and suggested a letter of support be mailed immediately.

Commissioner Pat Wolfe recommended Eichorn work with Chair Greg Matherly on a letter of support to the governor, with the resolution planned for March, which will provide double-barrel impact.

Eldridge said the request is worth considering based on the potential economic impact on the county from the predicted loss of jobs in the medical field.

“But it’s not enough to support it without hearing both sides,” he added.

Before Eichorn’s presentation during the Feb. 25 meeting, Eldridge said no formal research had been conducted by the commission on the impact of the legislation to Washington County.

Eldridge has since found information that indicates the Medicaid Expansion may not be such a great idea.

He passed on the information to County Attorney John Rambo who will be working with Matherly on the letter.

“We were concerned about understanding the issue to a greater extent before staking out a position that may be contrary to the governor and what is best for the state,” Eldridge said.