Call to Action: Public Comments Sought on Tennessee Medicaid Funding Proposal

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5 mins read

Tennessee residents have until October 18 to publicly comment on a proposal to convert Medicaid to a block grant.

In Tennessee, the Republican governor Bill Lee is seeking to convert Medicaid funding to a Medicaid block grant.

From The Tennessean:

Under the proposal, the state would receive a $7.9 billion block grant to use on some of its Medicaid services, rather than receiving an unspecific but unlimited amount of funding based on claims filed… While the state argues that the increased flexibility and savings would allow Tennessee to expand TennCare coverage to some of the hundreds of thousands of residents who currently do not qualify for state insurance, opponents say the plan could result in cuts in benefits for those currently enrolled. There are currently 1.4 million Tennesseans enrolled in the program.

The Block Grant has been controversial since Lee first proposed it in 2017. DemCast Tennessee Content Captain Susan B. Steen explains why:

To most of us, a Block Grant sounds like a supportive measure. It might sound supportive, but it is not. Block Grant funds take the place of funding from an Entitlement Program. 

Entitlement Programs — Medicaid, SNAP, SSI — meet the needs of people in need. If a person’s circumstances change, their benefits from federal Entitlement Programs can be adjusted to meet their needs. 
Entitlement Programs are run by the FEDERAL government. The money for these entitlement programs is flexible, so those in need will have the help they need.Block Grant means the FEDERAL government gives a single amount of dollars to the STATE government, and the STATE government is now in charge of helping the people in need.

Under the Block Grant, if a person finds that their health is worsening and they need more assistance, or if a person’s income drops and they need more assistance, it will be up to the state to decide if there are any funds to help that individual. Since the Block Grant funds can’t be increased, unless the state is willing to dip into its own funds, no additional help will be available.What makes this even worse for the people currently relying on Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI is that once the STATE government accepts that Block Grant, it has a lot of flexibility with how it uses the money. It doesn’t have to use those dollars for the same programs, and it can make cuts to the programs that the FEDERAL government doesn’t allow to be made now. A Block Grant means that once the FEDERAL government gives those dollars to the STATE, there are no guarantees that people in need will be helped properly.

Last night, the state held the first in a series of public hearings about the proposal, which more than 150 people attended. However, the governor was not in attendance.

In addition to a no-show by the governor, no one from the administration answered questions or even kept notes of the hearing.

Our friends at The Tennessee Holler were at the meeting captured the emotions of the event.

Residents have until October 18 to submit comments to the state on the proposal. Comments may be sent by email to: public.notice.tenncare@tn.gov.

At least two additional hearings are being held:

East Tennessee 
Location: Burlington Branch of the Knox County Library, Community Meeting Room, 4614 Asheville Highway, Knoxville 
Date: Wednesday, October 2 
Time: 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time 

West Tennessee 
Location: Jackson-Madison County Library, Program Center , 433 East Lafayette Street, Jackson 
Date: Thursday, October 3 
Time: 2:30 p.m. Central Time 

The TennCare website notes: “TennCare is in the process of scheduling two additional hearings on Amendment 42, to take place in Chattanooga and in Memphis. Details of these hearings will be announced when finalized. “


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Born on the 4th of July, Kelly has always been a firecracker, leading a revolution of girls sitting at the boys’ lunch table in 2nd grade and founding Young Independents in high school. Since earning her Masters, Kelly has spent the past 15 years as a university administrator. In the fall of 2017, Kelly co-created the Two Broads Talking Politics Podcast with her friend Sophy. As producer and co-host, Kelly quickly built the podcast into a nationally recognized interview show, featuring Democratic candidates, activists, and authors around the country. She lives in Chicago with her husband & two sons.

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