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Tennessee will not expand Medicaid

NEW YORK —Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee said Wednesday that he would not expand Medicaid as called for in the federal health care overhaul, joining 18 other Republican governors who have rejected expansion for now.

Haslam said he wanted instead to use federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for as many as 175,000 low-income residents. But he said that plan was held up because the Obama administration had put conditions on the money.

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With his health care law, President Obama wanted to make Medicaid, the federal-state health program for poor people, available to many more, covering those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (currently up to $15,856 a year for an individual). But when the Supreme Court upheld the law last year, it ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion.

For states that opt in, the US government will pay the full cost of expansion from 2014 to 2016, with its share gradually decreasing to 90 percent in 2020. About two dozen governors, most Democrats, want to expand Medicaid.

Tennessee is not the first state to latch on to the idea of using the federal expansion money to buy private insurance for a portion of its low-income population. Arkansas and Ohio are seeking permission from the Obama administration to do so, and some lawmakers in other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have expressed interest.

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