State authorized to check TennCare recipients - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

State authorized to check TennCare recipients

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge has authorized the state to check the eligibility of 150,000 TennCare recipients as a way to help state budget restraints.

U.S. District Judge John T. Nixon in Nashville heard arguments in the case Wednesday and ruled on the matter Thursday.

TennCare officials said after the ruling that they will start the review process. They estimate the state spends about $1.2 billion annually to provide health care insurance to the 150,000.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has directed TennCare and other agencies to reduce spending by 15 percent, possibly more, in the face of a revenue shortfall of up to $1 billion.

TennCare is the state's expanded Medicaid program that serves about 1.2 million children, pregnant women and disabled Tennesseans and costs about $7 billion a year. The federal government helps subsidize it.

Attorneys for the enrollees have said the move would put tens of thousands of lives at risk. They also argued that the state had not yet proven that it can fairly determine such eligibility.

Nixon ruled in a case in which the state sought to be released from the terms of a 1987 injunction that banned such reviews. The state said this order opened the possibility of non-eligible individuals remaining in the program.

TennCare officials had provided the court new information they say shows how granting their request could help enrollees maintain their medical benefits during planned budget cuts that include eliminating supplemental payments to hospitals.

Advocates for the enrollees have said about 20,000 "medically fragile children" and another 16,000 enrollees who are severely mentally ill would be among those in jeopardy of losing their benefits.    

Information from: The Tennessean,              

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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