Alexander: Medicaid Expansion Creates Unfunded Mandate That Will Bankrupt States

Tennessee Says It Could Be Forced to Release Nonviolent Prison Inmates to Address Budget Shortfall

Posted on November 17, 2009

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate: “I picked up my newspaper in Nashville on Sunday morning, and here was the headline: ‘Governor Bredesen Faces Painful Choices as Tennessee Begins Budget Triage.’ That’s the sort of talk you usually reserve for an emergency room. I have said several times that any senator who votes to expand Medicaid and transfer the costs on to the states ought to be sentenced to go home and serve as governor for a few years and try to implement the Medicaid program which is bankrupting states and forcing funding cuts that will ruin public higher education.” • “The Governor has told his department heads to present him with suggestions for budget cuts of 6 percent … Chas Sisk, writing in the Tennessean yesterday, says Tennessee may release 4,000 nonviolent felons—people possibly convicted of drug-dealing and robbery, under a plan outlined Monday by Tennessee’s Department of Correction to deal with the state’s budget crisis …” • “So, how in the world, in light of these conditions, could we even think about a provision in the health care bill that would add tens of billions of dollars in new costs to the states, which are in their worst fiscal condition since the Great Depression? That’s called an ‘unfunded mandate.’” • “If we think it’s such a great idea to dump 14 million more Americans into a low-income program called Medicaid then we should pay for it. We should pay for it somehow in the federal budget instead of dumping the bill on the states.” • “For Tennessee, according to Governor Bredesen, who is a Democrat and a leader of the National Governors Association health care caucus, says this will cost our state $1.4 billion over the next five years. That’s real money. How much money? Enough for a new state income tax or to do serious damage to higher education in Tennessee—or both.” • “Republicans suggest that – instead of these comprehensive, sweeping, 2,000-page bills that raise taxes, raise premiums, raise the debt, add to state taxes, hurt higher education and put low-income Americans into a program that half the doctors won’t see – we should move step by step to reduce costs, starting with small business health plans that allow businesses to pool resources and insure people at lower costs. We should also allow purchasing of health insurance across state lines, reduce the number of junk lawsuits against doctors, create health insurance exchanges so more Americans can shop for cheaper health insurance, and do something about waste, fraud and abuse. If we were to take those steps, that would be real health care reform because it would be reducing costs to the American people and to our government.” A full transcript of Senator Alexander’s remarks is available upon request.