Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is leading the nation’s governors against any health reform that shifts the bill to state budgets.

As I noted the other day, Bredesen inherited a mess in TennCare when he came to office, and then made dramatic cuts to Tennessee’s effort to make sure that everyone in the state had insurance.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont) has told governors to expect to add 11 million people to their Medicaid programs. Bredesen calls it “the mother of all unfunded mandates.”

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Does TennCare tell us much about the dangers of a universal coverage plan? The Tennessean article about Bredesen plays up the “Democrat said, Republican said” angle by drawing a contrast between the governor and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Repubican member of Congress from Tennessee.

But even if he is “neutral” about a “public plan,” he certainly issues enough warnings: “With TennCare, a part of what happened was, you open up eligibility broadly, and you have lots of plans — underlying plans — about how you’re going save the money to pay for those people. You are balancing absolutely certain short-term expenditures against, maybe, longer-term savings.” (Emphasis added.)

And since the state ends up giving away a valuable service free of charge or deeply subsidized, that’s overstating the cost savings.

(Cross-posted from State House Call.)


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