Health Care Compact Loses Tough Battle in Tennessee
Tuesday, May 1, began as a bright day for the Health Care Compact in Tennessee but ended in dark clouds as a bill authorizing the Volunteer State to enter a health care compact failed to win enough votes to ensure passage.
In the end, the bill was done in by a small group of Republican legislators who abstained from the final vote. Joe White, with Nashville Public Radio station WPLN, scooped other media outlets that had prematurely reported the compact's victory:
Several Republican members of the Tennessee House refused to vote on a Health Care Compact bill Tuesday night. And without a 50-vote majority, the bill died – after two years of partisan maneuvering to pass it....
The measure needed 50 votes in the 99 member House. It got only 46 with well over a dozen Republicans simply failing to vote.
A bill authorizing Tennessee to enter an interstate health care compact was first proposed in 2010 but died when the legislature adjourned before voting on the measure. The bill was re-introduced in the Senate in 2011 and approved by a 22-to-9 vote.
The House version was introduced earlier this year. In March, it passed out of the Health and Human Resources committee by an 11-to-5 vote. On Tuesday, it passed in the Tennessee House -- with numerous amendments -- by a vote of 63-to-27. Compact supporters were ecstatic, with better than 2-to-1 approval in both houses.
Then it all fell apart.
The conference committee quickly assembled to reconcile the House and Senate versions. The members stripped key amendments and reported out a bill very similar to the original Senate version. The Senate immediately approved the Conference Committee bill by a vote of 20-to-12. Then the House approved it by a vote of 45-to-26. However, a majority of the 99 House members are required to pass legislation, and the conference committee bill failed to get a 50-vote majority. The bill died while Republicans who had earlier voted in favor of it abstained.
This is not the end of the Health Care Compact in Tennessee. Legislation is likely to be introduced in the next session. Also, the Tennessee, like other states, might have to revisit the health care compact if the Supreme Court throws out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Source: "Tennessee Health Care Compact Fails as Republicans Sit on Hands," WPLN News, May 1, 2012.
Image courtesy of familymwr used under its Creative Commons license.
Steve O'Keefe is a freelance writer, author and book editor.