At 5:45 p.m. CST on February 2, the Tennessee State Senate and House will convene in a joint session to open the state’s 58th Extraordinary Session, the first since 2010.
The session, called by Governor Bill Haslam, will be used to discuss the Governor’s hotly debated ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan. Haslam has explained that, if approved, the plan would not expand the Affordable Care Act, but would instead offer affordable healthcare to more than 280,000 Tennesseans with no additional cost to the state. The impact would give assistance to those living up to 138% of the federal poverty line and would have the most dramatic effect on rural areas where hospitals and medical facilities are struggling to remain open.
Insure Tennessee would create a two-pronged system, including a “Healthy Incentive Plan” for those living in the 100%-138% poverty range. In the provisions of the plan, insured citizens would still pay co-pays and premiums, but would receive savings for making healthy choices or taking disease-preventing measures.
During the session, some legislators to watch include Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Representative Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) in the House and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) in the Senate. Durham has been outspoken against the proposed legislation in the House, while Speaker Harwell has not yet made her position clear. Her support could make or break the legislation in the House.
Sen. Overbey, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed to sponsor the Governor’s legislation in the Senate and has stressed the financial benefits to supporting the plan. Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s position on the plan will also be instrumental in the Senate as the Extraordinary Session begins.
Passage of the plan would provide a greater level of financial security and predictability for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Clinical Practice Plans, which provide needed operational revenue for UTHSC.