- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State officials on Thursday put the brakes on releasing information to The Tennessean newspaper about nearly $6 million in taxpayer-subsidized health insurance benefits since 2008.

The newspaper reported (https://tnne.ws/1AIwnmZ ) that it had been promised copies of the records in exchange for a $1,500 fee. But the state Benefits Administration later reversed course without explanation, saying the documents wouldn’t be available until at least Friday.

The issue of lawmaker health benefits became a subject of attention as the General Assembly rejected Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

Eighty-eight of 99 House members and 28 of the 33 senators are on the state employee health plan - including six of seven senators who voted to kill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan during a special legislative session in February.

Lawmakers qualify for the state health plan even though they are not considered full-time state employees. The state’s taxpayers cover up to 80 percent of their premiums.

The decision not to immediately release the records came as lawmakers once again expressed outrage that information about their publicly subsidized health coverage would be made public.

“The release of this information is a blatant violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) standards,” House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada said in a statement. “If this is the executive branch’s way of negotiating with the legislative branch about Insure Tennessee, I would encourage them to strongly and swiftly rethink their strategy.”

The Tennessean on Wednesday made a preliminary review of the documents on a state computer, finding that the state had paid about $5.8 million in premiums for lawmakers since 2008. Legislators paid $1.4 million for their share over the same timeframe.

Casada, a staunch opponent of Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal, has been enrolled in the state employee health plan since 2012, the newspaper found. The state paid nearly $41,000 of Casada’s premiums, while he paid about $9,000.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com


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