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VOL. 37 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 06, 2013

VU poll: Majority in Tennessee want Medicaid expansion

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Three in five Tennesseans support expanding Medicaid, though nearly half also have a negative view of the federal health care law, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last spring declined $1.4 billion in federal funds to cover about 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans under the terms that the money was offered by the federal government.

Negotiations over a special state deal have so far been fruitless, and Haslam in a letter to Health and Human Resources Secretary Katherine Sebelius on Monday said "we do not see a path forward" unless an agreement can be reached.

Asked about the poll indicating wide support for Medicaid expansion, Haslam spokesman David Smith said the governor is working for approval to "cover more Tennesseans with a plan that considers both better health outcomes and cost."

Democrats have criticized the governor for not taking the money, which they argue hurts hospitals and medical care for patients.

"The governor's letter is simply the latest in a series of farces," House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said in a release on Tuesday. "It's more of the same hand-wringing, ducking and dodging we've come to expect from this administration."

The survey of 800 randomly selected registered voters showed 63 percent favored an expansion of Medicaid, while 34 percent were against it. Only 15 percent had positive impression of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, while 51 percent viewed it negatively. One-third of respondents said they didn't know enough about the law to have an opinion.

The poll conducted between Nov. 20 and Dec. 5 had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

The poll also said President Barack Obama's approval rating has plummeted in Tennessee. While his approval rating was 40 percent in May, it now stands at 28 percent.

Haslam's job approval rating was 61 percent, and 57 percent said they believe the state is on the right track. Fifty-three percent said they had a positive view of the state Legislature and 66 percent said they view the state economy as very or fairly good.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who won a second six-year term last year, had a 52 percent approval rating. Fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is up for re-election next year, had a 49 percent approval rating.

Among other issues potentially facing state lawmakers next year, 39 percent said they support a limited school voucher program for students from low-income families attending poor schools. Thirty percent said they favor a more expansive statewide program, while 29 percent said they opposed vouchers altogether.

Only 18 percent said the state should do away with a requirement to obtain a state-issued permit to carry a handgun in public, while 81 percent said they would oppose the change.

About two out of three respondents said they would support a change in the law to require a doctor's prescription to get cold medicines that contain ingredients used to make methamphetamine.