Advocates for Families in Need


211 7th Avenue N, Ste. 100

Nashville, TN 37219

Phone: (615)255-0331 Fax: (615)255-0354

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For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                        

Michele Johnson, Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said the following regarding the Medicaid block grant proposal submitted to federal officials on November 20, 2019:

Tennessee officials are taking our state down a dangerous path that no state has ever travelled before. Tennesseans’ overwhelming opposition to the draft released in September compelled officials to make some changes, but the proposal remains a dire threat to Tennesseans and our healthcare infrastructure. TennCare has a troubled history that includes the recent unexplained termination of coverage of over 100,000 children, as well as $400 million in cost overruns on a computer system that still doesn’t work properly. And now the state is asking for a blank check. In the weeks ahead, Tennesseans need to tell federal officials why this plan is wrong and must be rejected.

Additional commentary about the key issues with the proposal:

  • [page iv] – The state does not promise to spend savings on the TennCare program and only commits to invest savings in the “health” of TennCare enrollees. Officials could interpret this broadly to divert money to everything from law enforcement to charter school subsidies.
  • [pages 24-25] The plan lists lifesaving expansions of TennCare that “might” be considered if the waiver were approved and additional federal funds become available. The list includes reducing maternal and infant mortality, and overdose deaths, but makes no commitment to actually do any of those things. It ignores the fact that the state could use billions of additional federal funds for those purposes right now, if officials would simply implement former Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan, or similar plans implemented in most other states.
  • [page 26] The plan still includes a demand that TennCare be allowed to operate a managed care program that does not comply with federal safeguards against contractor fraud and abuse. Ironically, those safeguards were adopted nationally, in part, in response to TennCare scandals 20 years ago. HMOs that contracted with TennCare went bankrupt, leaving doctors unpaid, patients untreated and taxpayers holding the bag. Why in the world do officials want to risk all of that again? The plan offers no justification.