Block grant plan affecting 1.4 million TennCare enrollees expected mid-September

Local In TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee hopes to soon see the first draft of a plan affecting the health care of 1,400,000 Tennesseans.

Soon after that it will be the public’s turn to provide input to what is called a block grant from the federal government for the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare. If approved by the federal government, the Medicaid block grant of several billion dollars yearly would be the nation’s first.

“In the next couple of weeks, you will see the first draft of it and then we will take public input to finalize by the 20th of November (deadline),” said Governor Lee on Friday.

Like many Republicans, Lee has long supported getting funds used for Medicaid directly from the federal government. It would replace the current match system where states like Tennessee generally receive two dollars for every dollar spent on the Medicaid program designed to provide healthcare for lower income families.

The idea is that Tennessee can manage the money better than Washington, provide better services, and possibly cover more lower income individuals with savings, if the state can get a waiver from the federal government’s current Medicaid rules to do so.

“Step one is getting the waiver,” added the governor Friday. “Step two is designing the strategy what we are going to do with it.”

There are no shortage of critics to the TennCare block grant plan. Democrats have long maintained that more people could be covered if the state would use several billion dollars available yearly in funds from the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare to expand the TennCare program.

Critics likely will be heard during the public comment period scheduled this fall after the initial TennCare block grant is released by the Lee administration.

“I think the federal government is hopeful that some states will provide requests they can live with,” said the governor.

Lee said he’s also “encouraged” by what he’s heard so far from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), which is the federal agency overseeing Medicaid rules.

The governor has long said if the TennCare block grant plan and waiver accepted by Washington is not a good one, then he won’t pursue it.

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