Governor Bill Lee has reached out to several African-American leaders both on and off Capitol Hill in the last week, but he’s not budging on one of the key things they support–expansion of Tennessee’s Medicaid program TennCare.
During the past week, Lee has met with the Legislative Black Caucus, NAACP members, and Tuesday, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.
After meeting and greeting leaders and guests at the Urban League luncheon, Lee was introduced as the first governor to attend such an event for the group that focuses on social and economic development.
Lee stressed the Urban League mission in his speech.
“I am grateful and appreciative of the work y’all do to make sure we provide opportunity for everyone,” Lee told the audience.
The governor did not mention health care in his speech, but some of the legislature’s Democrat leaders in the House and Senate–some who are African-American–have said Lee has been talking about healthcare with them.
“We have expressed to him this is a new day, new dawn and new opportunity for him to say he wants to do something on healthcare,” House Democratic Leader Karen Camper told reporters last week.
But Lee is not budging publicly about calls from Democrats or many in the African-American community to expand TennCare to provide coverage for several hundred thousand low-income Tennesseans using available federal money from the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare.
Lee has often responded to the question by saying that Medicaid is “broken.”
“What I want to do is to fix that system and not expand a broken system, ” the governor repeated today. “So, lowering the cost of healthcare so more people can afford it is going to be my goal and that’s where we are going to start.
The governor added that health care will be part of his State of the State address on Mar. 4.