Health Care

TNDP backs ‘Medicare for all,’ $15 minimum wage and medical marijuana

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party

On Saturday, October 28, 2017, the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party passed three resolutions supporting progressive policies. First they weighed in on health care, voicing their support for ‘Medicare for All.’

Continue reading

Alexander seeks Senate hearings on fed rule that stopped payments to West TN physician

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is asking that Sen. Orrin Hatch hold Senate Finance Committee hearings on whether an a federal regulation used to block Medicare payments to West Tennessee’s Dr. Bryan Merrick should be revoked, reports Tennessee Star.

Alexander chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he says does not have jurisdiction over the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulation. Senator Hatch chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which does have jurisdiction over the CMS regulation.

Continue reading

On a rural West TN doctor’s fight with feds, backed by area politicians appealing to Alexander, Kustoff

The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has shut off payments to Dr. Bryan Merrick after finding clerical errors in billings through McKenzie Medical Center for a handful of Medicare patients. The move threatens to shut down the center – which serves around 4,000 patients in a rural area with few medical providers — and has brought a bipartisan outpouring of pleas to help Merrick from West Tennessee political leaders to members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, so far without results.

The latest plea was a letter last week from McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as chairman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, asking him to convene a hearing with the goal of “revocation or modification of a particularly egregious Obama-era regulation” that CMS used in stopping Medicare payments to Merrick that is now “jeopardizing health care to hundreds and eventually thousands of citizens” in Carroll, Weakley and Henry counties. As of this weekend, Alexander had not responded to the letter or a reporter’s email inquiry seeking comment.

Continue reading

VA hospitals in Memphis, Nashville and Murfreesboro rated among worst in nation

Three of Tennessee’s four Veterans Administration hospitals — those in Memphis, Nashville and Murfreesboro — are rated among the worst in the entire VA network of nearly 150 hospitals in a new report, reports The Tennessean. That contrasts to northeast Tennessee’s Mountain Home VA hospital, which again was given 4 out of 5 stars.

The ratings show that each of the three poorly rated hospitals made improvements, and at two of them — Murfreesboro and Nashville — significant improvements. But even that upward trend didn’t change the overall rating.

In response to the ratings, the three hospitals issued almost the exact same response, each statement replacing only the name of the hospital.

“Secretary (David) Shulkin has been clear that transparency is a crucial component of our efforts to reform the department. That’s why we’re posting these important end-of-year ratings, which document improvements at 64 percent of rated VA medical centers,” the statement read (using the Memphis example). “Regionally, the Memphis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center rates well above local area hospitals in almost every facet of outpatient care. It is most important to note the facility improved overall against its own baseline.”

…In some data sets generated by the VA itself, the hospitals do compare favorably to others. But other data sets that are included in the overall rating show mortality rates at Memphis three times higher than benchmarks, longer lengths of stays and higher readmission rates at all three.

 

Alexander, Murray propose bipartisan, short-term Obamacare deal

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray say they have reached an agreement on a bipartisan Obamacare deal to fund a key insurance subsidy program and provide states flexibility to skirt some requirements of the health care law, reports Politico.

There is no assurance that the agreement will get to the Senate floor, however. Republicans on Tuesday were lukewarm about the prospect of resuming debate over whether to try to prop up Obamacare after multiple failed GOP attempts to repeal the law.

Continue reading

Harwell, Casada reject Democrats’ call for special session

In a perhaps unusual move, House Republican leaders have responded to Thursday’s House Democrats holding a news conference and issuing a press release urging a special legislative session on Medicaid expansion.  (Usually such Democrat doings are ignored.) They spurned the idea.

House Speaker Beth Harwell: “As Speaker of the House, I believe that instead of calling for a wasteful special session to expand a program that is failing, we as State Representatives and Senators should instead call on Congress to return healthcare back to the states without strings attached so we can begin to develop a better, more affordable program for Tennesseans.”

House Majority Leader Glen Casada“As Republican leaders of our state, we want to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, not support a broken healthcare system that has become a drain on Tennessee families and backed insurance providers into a corner. 

Republicans want real solutions, not political promises that would result in more bureaucracy, higher costs, and drive a bigger wedge between patients and doctors. Obamacare has caused insurance rates to skyrocket to a point where the middle class can no longer afford coverage. 

Medicaid expansion has been an abysmal failure for those states that have participated. Here in Tennessee, we are committed to improving the health and quality of life for all Tennesseans through free market principles that demonstrate real results.

Note: The House Democratic Caucus press release is posted HERE.

Fitzhugh calls for special session on Medicaid expansion

News release from House Democratic Caucus

Nashville—House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is calling for Gov. Bill Haslam to convene a special session of the legislature in the wake of the Graham-Cassidy bill failing to garner enough votes in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Continue reading

Alexander to try again on bipartisan Obamacare fix

With plans for a U.S. Senate vote on the latest Republican proposal to repeal Obamacare abandoned, Sen. Lamar Alexander said today he will restart efforts to come  up with a short-term bill that can win bipartisan support.

Here’s the press release:

Continue reading

Medical marijuana task force hears cannabis critics

The first meeting of the legislature’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis ran about five hours with much of the lawmakers’ time spent listening to concerns that legalizing use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is a slippery slope, reports WPLN.

At the meeting, lawmakers were repeatedly told medicinal use of marijuana would lead to abuse. Experts spoke of supplies contaminated with other drugs, the difficulty of keeping legally purchased marijuana from being resold and stories of underage children dying after ingesting marijuana.

The testimony drew pushback from one of medical cannabis’s big supporters.

“You need to be fair,” said state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby (the committee co-chair). “If we’re going to hold marijuana use for medical purpose to a standard, then compare it to what’s going on right now that’s legal and that’s encouraged by a lot of doctors.”

Faison argued that marijuana is less dangerous than many opioids and psychotropic drugs.

An excerpt from WTVF TV’s report:

The state Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, David Reagan, said he believes medical marijuana hasn’t been studied enough to legalize in Tennessee.

“We support doing additional research. The FDA, more the DEA from our perspective, has traditionally been, for 100 years, has been an organization that exemplifies getting us safe and effective medicines,” said Reagan. Until marijuana’s schedule one designation changes, Reagan said he doesn’t think it will be studied to the level it needs.

And House Speaker Beth Harwell, who appointed House members of the panel, continues to be asked about the subject as she campaigns for governor. From WJHL TV, reporting on her campaigning in the Tri-Cities last week:

“We’re not talking about recreational at all, I’m not for that. I’m not even for smoking marijuana, that causes cancer,” Harwell said. “I’m for oils and edibles and something that can help a lot of people who are suffering from chronic pain.”

The panel plans future meetings in the Knoxville and Memphis areas.

TennCare director bucks national group, backs Haslam on Obamacare bill

The National Association of Medicaid Directors is criticizing the Graham-Cassidy health care bill that faces a U.S. Senate vote next week, reports Nashville Post. But with Gov. Bill Haslam supporting the proposal as “flat-out good for Tennessee” — Tennessee’s Medicaid director, Wendy Long, stands with her boss rather than the national organization.

Continue reading