TennCare

Comptroller finds fault with TennCare paperwork pile

The state Comptroller’s Office says TennCare’s 98-page renewal form is making it harder than necessary for low-income Tennesseans to maintain their subsidized government health coverage, reports WPLN.

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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).

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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.

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Haslam ‘working group’ to consider banning long-term opioid prescriptions for some on TennCare

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s putting together a “working group” to consider changes in state laws and regulations dealing with opioid abuse, including a ban on long-term prescriptions of the powerful and addictive painkillers for many TennCare patients, reports the Times Free Press.

“Should we ever be long-term prescribing opioids in TennCare in a non-cancer situation? That’s a question we’re going to explore,” Haslam said last week. “There’s a lot of things we think we can do. So we’re going to put together a working group there.”

He spoke after returning from a Chattanooga event where U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price sought to highlight the nation’s opioid crisis and the Trump administration’s approach to battling it.

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AMA poll: Most Tennesseans don’t want cuts to Medicaid

The American Medical Association, which opposes both the House-approved version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare and the latest proposed version from Senate Republicans, has commissioned a poll that basically says most Tennesseans agree with that position.

The first sentence of a Times Free Press report says that 60 percent of surveyed Tennesseans oppose cuts to TennCare/Medicaid funding, which both versions would do, and otherwise summarizes the findings. An excerpt:

The June 15-19 poll of 500 registered Tennessee voters was among surveys conducted in seven states by the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

…In another finding, 56 percent don’t want senators to pass the House bill as is, with 30 percent wanting “major” changes made and 26 percent saying they didn’t want senators to pass any part of the House bill.

Only 9 percent of voters said they wanted the Senate to pass the House legislation just as it is, while 24 percent wanted to see senators make minor changes before passing it.

Forty-nine percent of the Tennesseans surveyed said they viewed TennCare positively. Another 19 percent were neutral. Only 15 percent held unfavorable views of TennCare.

Voters were evenly divided — 39 percent either way — over whether to keep Medicaid funding at its present level or to increase it. Only 9 percent want to decrease Medicaid funding.

…The poll’s accompanying memo from pollsters said “it is important to note” that a majority of those surveyed — 57 percent — are themselves enrolled or have a family member enrolled in Medicaid, or know someone with Medicaid coverage.

Note: The AMA poll press release is HERE. The affiliated Tennessee Medical Association recently issued a press release opposing the proposed Senate bill, HERE.

TN Hospital Association opposes both House and Senate versions of Obamacare repeal

The Tennessee Hospital Association is opposing pending Republican legislation to replace and repeal Obamacare, reports the Times Free Press. THA President Craig Becker says nine rural hospitals have closed or dramatically curtailed services over the past four years and spending cuts in both the House and Senate versions of the GOP proposals will make things worse.

“I think definitely, you’re going to see more rural hospital closures coming along, particularly as it relates to these Medicaid cuts coming down the pike,” Becker said after Republican Senate leaders unveiled their plan last week.

Becker said the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 fails to “adequately address the health care needs of Tennesseans and THA opposes the legislation.”

The hospital association is talking with the offices of Tennessee’s Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

“We’ve told them we’re absolutely in opposition to the Senate bill as it is now,” Becker said. “It’s clearly going to do damage to the hospitals here.”

Becker said rural hospitals won’t be the only ones to feel the pain.

The Senate and House bills both would cap federal funding for Medicaid, which covers more than 70 million low- income people nationwide. Some 1.5 million pregnant women, children, disabled and elderly people receive Medicaid through TennCare.

Becker said the proposals “represent real, long-term cuts to Medicaid and present a major threat for the future of health care and hospitals in our state.”

He said planned changes to premium subsidies and dropping the individual coverage mandate would put at risk more than 200,000 Tennesseans who bought insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

Alexander, Corker refrain from embracing Senate plan for Obamacare repeal and replacement

Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both stopped well short of embracing the Senate plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare – they label it a “discussion draft” – in official statements.

Alexander, who was involved early in drafting the plan, does list “benefits for Tennesseans” in the proposal, but says he’s going to continue reviewing the matter, see how cost estimates develop and watch for amendments. His statement is HERE.

Corker just says he will be reviewing the proposal, seeking input from a “wide range of stakeholders” and “make a final decision based on whether this legislation, on the whole, is better than what is in place today.” His statement is HERE.

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AG sues operator of 18 TN ‘pain management clinics,’ alleging TennCare fraud

News release from Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against an organization of pain management clinics owned and operated by Michael Kestner and his business partner, Dr. Lisabeth Williams. Kestner is the primary owner of MMi, which operated at least 18 pain management clinics throughout Tennessee.

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Democrats urge Insure TN be reconsidered; Haslam says not now

With the Republican plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare dead in Washington for now, at least four states that previously rejected Medicaid expansion – Kansas, Maine, North Carolina and Virginia – have moves afoot to reconsider the idea.

Tennessee Democrats would like to see the Volunteer State become the fifth, reports WPLN, but Gov. Bill Haslam says it’s too early. In 2015, Haslam proposed a Medicaid expansion plan, dubbed Insure Tennessee, that was killed by the Legislature.

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he is not currently considering another legislative special session to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

“The sooner the better, so we can begin collecting and allowing up to 300- or 400-hundred thousand people to be covered under Medicaid,” says House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Fitzhugh proposes repealing a state law that requires the legislature to sign off on Medicaid expansion. That would free up Governor Bill Haslam to negotiate a plan with the Trump administration. (Note: It’s HB846, on notice for the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee next week.)

Haslam says he’s instructed TennCare officials to review their options. But it’s too soon to come up with a plan.

“I think it’s early. I mean, we literally just had, Friday, the country took a change of direction no one was expecting,” he says.

Haslam adds it’s probably too late in the legislative session to propose an expansion plan this year. Lawmakers are likely to adjourn around the end of April, and the administration has focused on passing the state budget and a road-funding plan.

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Haslam, other GOP govs, fret over lack of flexibility in health care bill

“Flexibility” has become a buzzword among 15 Republican governors raising concerns about U.S. House GOP’s health care bill, reports Politico, including Tennessee’s Bill Haslam on it list. No governors have publicly expressed strong support for the American Health Care Act.

Further from an AP report: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that GOP legislation would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year alone, and 24 million over a decade. Haslam says it’s not clear how many people would be affected in Tennessee, and that the legislation could still change in Congress.

The Republican governor said Tuesday that the main thing the state is looking for in the overhaul is more flexibility to deal with areas like increased enrollment during an economic downturn or escalating costs for medications. He says that flexibility was not included in the in the original version of the proposed overhaul.

Similar language was used by the director of TennCare in an appearance before the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, reports the Tennessean. She said the proposal is structured to reduce Medicaid funding without loosening up regulations for states to further tailor programs.

“We definitely have concerns at this point in time,” said Long, adding the agency would continue to be in touch with the state’s federal congressional delegation to monitor amendments.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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