Expanding Medicaid was “certainly” one of the topics discussed by Gov. Bill Haslam in meetings he attended in an unscheduled trip to Washington, D.C., yesterday, but few other details were offered by his office about the trip.
Haslam, who announced his decision late last month to hold off on expanding TennCare under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, was scheduled to attend a press conference on financial literacy Tuesday. But the governor canceled the event and instead flew to the nation’s Capitol to attend meetings and a White House concert, according to a Nashville City Paper report.
In an emailed statement, Haslam press secretary Dave Smith said the governor attended the Memphis Soul event held in the East Room of the White House Tuesday. The concert, which was part of the In Performance at the White House Series, featured artists who were both born and recorded music in Tennessee-including Justin Timberlake, Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones, Eddie Floyd, Charlie Musselwhite and The Alabama Shakes.
Smith said Haslam also attended “other meetings” during the trip but declined to say with what officials or agencies.
“With regards to the other meetings, Medicaid was certainly one of the topics discussed,” he said.
Haslam returned from the trip Tuesday evening.
Whether the governor’s discussions on Medicaid signal any progress in his proposal for expanding Tennessee’s program is tough to say. Since his announcement on March 27, the governor has repeatedly mentioned discussing the plan with federal officials.
Last week, the governor said he had been “encouraged” by talks between his office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding his proposal for a “third option” for expanding TennCare. Although the complete details of Haslam’s proposal have not been revealed, a major component would hinge on using federal dollars marked for expansion to purchase private insurance plans for newly eligible TennCare recipients.
If accepted, Haslam has said the proposal could add as many as 175,000 new beneficiaries to TennCare rolls.
The governor and federal officials face no rigid deadline on deciding if they will move forward on any proposal. In recent weeks, Haslam has said a conclusion could be reached in as soon as one week or take up to a year.
Meanwhile, speculation on whether Haslam could call the General Assembly to convene in a special session to consider his plan continues. Some lawmakers are aiming to wrap up the current session by April 18, which would be the earliest adjournment since 1990.