Around the South for Dec. 18: TN, KY & MS

Tennessee: Haslam announces health insurance expansion. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has proposed a two-year pilot program that would make health insurance available to some 160,000 currently uninsured Tennesseans. The plan, which Haslam worked out with Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell, does not rely on Medicaid, but does use federal dollars and will not require an increase in state taxes ……. Kentucky: McConnell slams Murthy. This week when the Senate confirmed the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to become surgeon general by a vote of 51 to 43, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) was among the nay-sayers. Noting that Murthy was a founder of “Doctors for Obama” in 2008, McConnell said Murthy’s selection “had more to do with politics” that his medical background. Murthy was also opposed by the National Rifle Association for contending that guns were a public health issue ……. Mississippi: Cochran regains Appropriations chair. With the GOP in control of the Senate in January, US Sen. Thad Cochran (R) will become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and be in a position to deliver on his campaign promise to bring home the bacon. Nevertheless, Cochran told the Clarion-Ledger, he will work “to ensure we don’t waste money,” adding, “[W]e’re going to run a tight ship.”