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.”

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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