Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville attempted to expand Medicaid in Tennessee by invoking the name of Republican Vice President Mike Pence, and it backfired this week, in a big way.
As various news outlets reported this week, Johnson and State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, introduced what they called the “Mike Pence Medicaid Expansion Act of 2019.”
According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website, the bill, if enacted into law, would authorize the governor to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
Johnson and Yarbro put forth an amendment citing “Pence’s work as Indiana’s governor for further support and validation,” according to the Nashville-based FOX News 17.
Indiana expanded Medicaid under Obamacare during Pence’s tenure as governor.
But Republicans on the House TennCare Subcommittee this week told Johnson she overlooked a few important details.
Here is the transcript of what went down, between Johnson and Subcommittee Chairman Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough.
GLORIA JOHNSON: “There is a range of how folks have expanded Medicaid in their state. In Indiana they do have co-pays and things like that. What we’re seeing in Indiana is not as good as what we’re seeing in other states, but I can say that it’s better than what is happening here in Tennessee. I would be amenable to anything that gives more people access to the care they desperately need.”
MATTHEW HILL: “For the record you would be in favor of co-pays, you would be in favor of work requirements, you would be in favor of penalties if those co-pays and or premiums are not met. You would be in favor of monthly premium payments? Is that correct?
GLORIA JOHNSON: “That is not correct. It is something that Indiana chose. If we chose that then it is better than what we have right now.”
MATTHEW HILL: “This is where the whereas clauses and some of the structure of your amendment gets a little confusing because you reference Vice President Mike Pence several times in your amendment and, of course, he was the governor of Indiana, and, as you just referenced, the plan in Indiana — you said we needed to be like Mike — has hefty co-pays. It has work requirements. It has co-pays for unnecessary ER visits. It has monthly fees paid by participants. It covers 130 to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. If you do not pay then you are kicked off for a period of time. And you told us that we need to be like Mike. So, that’s why I had the question, that I assume you can be for all of these things, since we are referencing the former governor of Indiana quite thoroughly in your legislation and in your previous testimony.”
GLORIA JOHNSON: “Actually, this legislation says ‘Be like Mike in expanding Medicaid,’ but this bill is a straight Medicaid expansion, OK? This bill does not call for those things. Are those my favorite things? If you want to talk about Indiana then we can. I am speaking to this bill.”
MATTHEW HILL: “You spoke to Indiana first. Is that not correct?”
GLORIA JOHNSON: “Well, yes, I spoke to expand Medicaid as Mike Pence expanded Medicaid.”
MATTHEW HILL: “With co-pays, with premium payments, with work requirements?”
GLORIA JOHNSON: “Those details are not in here.”
MATTHEW HILL: “But you said like Indiana, and that’s what Indiana did.
GLORIA JOHNSON: If I wanted those things in this bill we would have put those things in the bill.”
MATTHEW HILL: “Hmm. Interesting.”
MATTHEW HILL: The Indiana plan, it’s very safe to say, is a plan that encourages personal responsibility. However, you have just said you are not for those things. Interesting.
Later on, Hill asked why Johnson chose to call it the Mike Pence Medicaid Expansion Act of 2019?
“Because it is just an example of someone who has a great position in this country. They expanded Medicaid in their state and so we can do that here in Tennessee.”
Hill told Johnson he was “very glad to hear of your support for Vice President Pence and President Trump. I think that is outstanding.”
“If we’re interested in making policy then that is what we need to do. If we want to score political points there’s a conference room down the hall that everyone is very familiar with and where they can do that in,” Hill said.
After a voice vote, Johnson’s amendment failed.