TennCare Director tries to calm fears concerning state's Medicaid block grant proposal

Oct 25, 2019

TennCare Director Gabe Roberts
Credit tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- TennCare Director Gabe Roberts is reassuring Tennesseans that no one will lose benefits as a result of plans to fundamentally change the way safety-net health services are paid for.

Gov. Bill Lee hopes to convince federal authorities to send annual Medicaid funding to Tennessee as a lump sum or block grant. Federal dollars are currently awarded as a percentage of total state expenditures no matter how high they rise.

State officials this month heard overwhelmingly negative comments about the proposal during statewide listening sessions.

During a hearing about the plan at the State Capitol Thursday, Tennessee Disability Coalition Director Carol Westlake chided Roberts for the lack of detail in the proposal.

“We ask you to listen to folks with disabilities and their families, and we ask that any proposed changes be thoroughly vetted and thoroughly detailed so that people really understand what the impacts are going to be.”

Tennessee Hospital Association President Wendy Long told lawmakers her members are "guardedly optimistic" about the proposal, but also noted they want written assurance that Tenncare payments to practitioners won't be cut.

Tennessee Medical Association Gov. Affairs Director Ben Simpson said doctors are pleased with the proposal's emphsis on preventive healthcare. However, he went on to express concern about provisions limiting the number of medications approved by Tenncare.

TennCare Director Roberts promised repeatedly that the plan would not result in cuts to benefits. Roberts hopes to submit the proposal to federal authorities before the end of the year.

It's unclear how federal authorities will react to the proposal, but President Donald Trump has encouraged the states to propose innovative new approaches to Medicaid-Medicare delivery.

Want to learn more? Review these TennCare documents: