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April 22, 2021
Medicaid Restructure Threatens Care for Low-Income Tennesseans
Washington DC – Thirteen Medicaid beneficiaries, represented by the National Health Law Program, the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC), and King & Spalding LLP, filed a complaint today in the US District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of the TennCare III project through the end of 2030. The approval caps the amount of federal funding available for Medicaid services and allows the State to restrict coverage of prescription drugs. It also permits the State to continue troublesome features of TennCare, including the elimination of 3-months’ retroactive coverage and the requirement that beneficiaries enroll in managed care plans—features that the State has been “testing” on low-income people since 1994.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of TennCare enrollees with chronic, disabling conditions, a pediatrician practicing in a rural part of the State, and TJC. The Plaintiffs argue that in its haste to approve the project, the Trump administration did not provide the required public comment period, depriving them of the opportunity to voice their objections to the project. They also claim that HHS exceeded its authority and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner when it authorized the project as a Section 1115 experimental waiver. The approval affects more than one and a half million Tennesseans.
Michele Johnson, Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said, “The hardships experienced by the plaintiffs who brought this case show the harm caused by the State’s decision to radically restructure TennCare. Tennessee has a long history of mismanagement and bad Medicaid policy. Tennessee is the last state that should have an experimental waiver that puts vulnerable populations at risk. We stand with our clients and all Tennesseans against the further restriction of life-saving health care services and prescription drugs.”
“The Trump administration overstepped its authority when it approved TennCare III, allowing Tennessee to ignore funding and coverage provisions in the Medicaid Act that Congress does not allow states to ignore,” said Jane Perkins, Legal Director at the National Health Law Program. “In a rush to approve the project in its waning days, that administration also stepped out of bounds by shutting the public out and approving TennCare III without giving the public notice and opportunity to comment as federal law requires.”
A copy of the complaint can be accessed here.
About the Tennessee Justice Center
The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit vulnerable families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.
About National Health Law Program
The National Health Law Program, founded in 1969, protects and advances health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. We advocate, educate, and litigate at the federal and state levels to advance health and civil rights in the U.S.