Medicaid expansion would bring more money into the state and prop up struggling economies just as infrastructure money does for roads and bridges.

What if there was a federal infrastructure program offering Tennessee $1.4 billion a year for bridges, roads and rural broadband expansion? Or, a company wanted to add jobs in or relocate to Tennessee, bringing $1 billion in additional payroll to Tennesseans without any state tax incentives? Our leaders would be turning cartwheels in either of these scenarios.

Insure Tennessee, proposed by Gov. Bill Lee’s very popular predecessor, Gov. Bill Haslam, is just such an opportunity. It would bring our state $1.4 billion annually to help our crippled state economy, save lives and sustain a rural health system that is on life support. As Haslam promised, it would not cost the state a dime. In fact, it would generate substantial state tax revenues the state urgently needs, particularly now.

Insure Tennessee on same par as major corporate deals

University of Tennessee economists reported the plan would bring more than $900 million in wages to Tennesseans and support 15,000 jobs.

Such wages is nearly equivalent to estimates of the new Nashville Amazon and Alliance Bernstein payrolls combined, which both  involved state incentives.  

Other economists have found recently that rural hospitals are six times more likely to survive if they are in states that allow hospitals access to all available federal Medicaid funds, as Insure Tennessee would do. 

Hear more Tennessee Voices: Get the weekly opinion newsletter for insightful and thought provoking columns.

Don’t forget the economic benefits to Tennessee of providing insurance to 300,000 uninsured Tennesseans who now are facing the COVID-19 outbreak, along with ongoing everyday health challenges, without health coverage.  Those of working age would undoubtedly see increased productivity with better health outcomes and the removal of a healthcare Sword of Damocles. The $1.4 billion from Insure Tennessee would be an investment in human resource infrastructure, providing jobs and wages in our state that should be embraced from all corners for both humanitarian and fiscal reasons.

Expansion is consistent with being a business friendly environment. Hospitals and other health care resources, particularly in rural areas, were struggling even before the pandemic. These providers need every dollar they can lay hands on, and we can help by implementing Insure Tennessee.

By driving down tax revenues, the COVID-19 pandemic is hammering state and local governments. The $1.4 billion available annually through Insure Tennessee dwarfs the $200 million in stimulus funds Lee is now preparing to allocate to local governments. It is a tool in the state government’s toolbox that is easily within reach. Importantly, Insure Tennessee would have a longterm impact because the $1.4 billion is not a onetime infusion like the COVID-19 emergency federal funds; it’s an annual source of revenue to the state.


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Your state. Your stories. Support more reporting like this.
A subscription gives you unlimited access to stories across Tennessee that make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you. Click here to become a subscriber.

Legislature will follow Lee’s lead

If Lee endorses the plan now as a responsible response to urgent state budget needs and to the coronavirus emergency, the legislature would certainly follow his lead, and almost two-thirds of Tennesseans are in favor of it. Tennessee, by joining 37 other states that accept federal Medicaid funding to cover uninsured working families can both do right by these families and benefit all Tennesseans by protecting jobs, increasing wages and procuring substantial much needed state revenue on a recurring basis.

State leaders should resist the pull of partisan ideology and analyze this opportunity through the lens of what is best for our state. The issue should be particularly in focus now, a time when generating or bringing new revenue, jobs and wages to Tennesseans should be our top priorities. Failure to do so would be an easily avoidable self-inflicted and consequential wound.

Lee can prove his priorities are protecting Tennesseans and restoring our state’s economy by making Insure Tennessee part of his legislative plans.


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Frank Garrison is a Nashville businessman and Advisor to C-III Capital Partners.

Read or Share this story: