Republican Governor Bill Haslam Embraces Obamacare, Sort Of

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam

While the long fight by Republicans to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) goes on, at least one Republican governor has decided to embrace it.

No, there wasn’t a sudden flash of reason, it’s just that it seems people (including many Republicans) like the Affordable Care Act, just as long as you don’t call it “Obamacare.” Back in 2013, it was found that the Affordable Care Act was more popular than Obamacare, even though it is the exact same thing. I guess that goes to show just how much time and effort Republicans put into demonizing a law that was intended to help more Americans get access to health insurance, something that the health insurance industry actually benefited from.

So perhaps that’s what Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN) is counting on with his plans to create an alternative to the Affordable Care Act in a special session of the state legislature.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will call a special session of the state Legislature to consider a plan aimed at providing healthcare coverage to state residents who either do not have insurance or whose options are limited, he said on Monday.

The “Insure Tennessee” plan is seen as an alternative to the Obama administration’s signature Affordable Care Act. That measure, known as Obamacare, has faced strong opposition in several Southern states, which also have large numbers of uninsured residents.

The Tennessee plan “leverages federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Tennesseans, to give people a choice in their coverage, and to address the cost of health care, better health outcomes and personal responsibility,” Haslam’s office said.

The Republican governor said his plan had received verbal approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to getting legislative approval, the state must submit a waiver to HHS. (Source)

In reality, the Affordable Care Act should actually be popular with Republicans as it makes people take “personal responsibility” by signing up for and buying health insurance, something I actually agree with. While many people believe we should have a single-payer system (my very conservative mother included), I’m cool with our current system where people are required to purchase coverage and low-income individuals should qualify for Medicaid expansion. With the Affordable Care Act, Republicans and their friends in the health insurance industry got most of what they wanted; they’re just really, really upset that it’s been nicknamed “Obamacare,” especially since it’s proving to be successful. Just look at Kentucky for example:

About half a million Kentuckians signed up for health insurance, many receiving it for the first time. Fewer than 100,000 joined private insurance plans; that means the bulk of the population joined Medicaid, which was greatly expanded under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. But at the same time, Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky and polls indicate that many Kentuckians do not associate Kynect with Obamacare. (Source)

In his re-election bid, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) campaigned against Obamacare while at the same time trying to pretend that the state’s wildly popular insurance program Kynect wasn’t part of the Affordable Care Act that he’s repeatedly tried to repeal. Now Gov. Bill Haslam will use “Insure Tennessee” to expand health insurance coverage to his constituents, and when it becomes popular in Tennessee like Kynect has become in Kentucky, he will almost undoubtedly point to its success if and when he decides to seek higher office. Bill Haslam has been mentioned as a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and is popular with voters from both parties in Tennessee. Many Republicans who aren’t thrilled with the idea of Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush leading the field of possible contenders would likely find Bill Haslam a welcome alternative, even though he would certainly draw the ire of the Tea Party.

I suppose we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and it’s a good thing that Tennessee residents may receive healthcare access that they didn’t have before – just so long as nobody refers to it as “Obamacare,” they’ll be happy with it.


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