Questions surround use of private TennCare appeal attorneys - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Questions surround use of private TennCare appeal attorneys

The cost is staggering: $348,000 per month, paid since July, to private attorneys to hear TennCare appeals. Over one million dollars has been spent so far.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Dwight Montgomery said Friday the attorney fees could have been put to better use.

"The million dollars certainly could have helped many people," Montgomery said, "to provide medicine for people who's benefits have been cut."

And it appears those lawyers were never needed at all. Attorneys from the Secretary of State's office have been handling the appeals all along, and they never asked for help, saying they could handle the appeals at no additional cost to taxpayers.

A DHS spokeswoman told Action News 5 Friday that "DHS chose to use special hearing officers for a variety of reasons. It gives us maximum flexibility with regard to how they can be deployed. We are under budget and ahead of schedule."

Senator Steve Cohen of Memphis Disagrees.

"There was not a need to hire these attorneys," Cohen said. "In fact they should be dismissed as of today."

But 120 special hearing officers are still on the job. Those attorneys hear an average of two appeals per day, each lasting 15 minutes to an hour.

Senator Cohen said he feels like the deck is stacked against those appealing being cut from Tenncare.

"It certainly gives the appearance of trying to hire people who would give the verdict that you want," Cohen said, "and that's not justice. The deck should never be stacked, particularly against the sickest, poorest, most vulnerable Tennesseans. Its criminal."

Powered by Frankly