House votes (along party lines) to require work for some on TennCare

The state House voted 72-23 Monday night to direct the Haslam administration to seek a waiver of federal Medicaid rules to develop a plan imposing a work requirement on some able-bodied TennCare enrollees, reports the Times Free Press.

The vote on HB1551) sponsored by House Speaker Beth Harwell and presented by Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown)  was along party lines – Republicans yes and Democrats no (with the exception of Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston). There was spirited debate.

The measure now awaits a Senate floor vote.  Gov. Bill Haslam has said he sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

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Democratic leader: Harwell’s TennCare work bill is a ‘political stunt’ using financial gimmicks

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart says House Speaker Beth Harwell’s bill to impose work requirements on some people enrolled in the state’s TennCare program is “a political stunt to get votes in the governor’s race” and relies on “fairy tale” financial gimmicks to cover projected costs, reports the Times Free Press.

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State gets new TennCare fraud investigator

Press release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A veteran law enforcement investigator with Medicaid fraud experience has been named Inspector General in the Department of Finance and Administration (F&A). Kim Harmon will lead efforts to combat fraud among members of TennCare, the state’s healthcare insurance program.  She succeeds Emmanuel (Manny) Tyndall, who is retiring after 14 years in the office, including four as Inspector General.

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At guber forum, Democrats call for Medicaid expansion; Republicans don’t

A health care forum Friday in Nashville illustrated the partisan split in the Tennessee governor’s race over Medicaid expansion, with Democrats ranking it their top priority and Republicans opposing it or espousing other priorities, reports the Associated Press.

The Democrats, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, called for expansion of Tennessee’s Medicaid program, TennCare, to 280,000 more low-income patients. The Republican-led General Assembly killed the plan in 2015.

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Medicaid expansion: Still pushed by Democrats, panned by Republicans

On the opening day of the 2018 legislative session Tuesday, about 100 protesters were on hand urging Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and House Democrats made a round of speeches supporting the idea. But Republican supermajority members remained hostile to the proposal, as they have since Gov. Bill Haslam tried and failed to win approval three years ago.

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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.