MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mid-Southerners expressed serious concerns regarding proposed changes to TennCare funding Tuesday at a public meeting.
Governor Lee wants the state’s Medicaid program to be funded through a federal block grant, but some believe it would have catastrophic effects to health care.
A full house of Mid-Southerners brought concerns to the first public meeting in Memphis about Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s plan to change TennCare funding to a federal block grant.
Right now, the federal government pays for 65 percent of the program based on the number of people enrolled. Gov. Lee wants the federal government to give a lump sum, $7.9 billion that would increase with inflation.
"Every public hearing that has happened so far there has been a unanimous and large growing opposition to this proposal," Francie Hunt, Executive Director Advocates for Planned Parenthood said.
Speakers included local politicians, those with serious health ailments and leaders in the medical field. They raised concerns ranging from lack of oversight on how funds are used to decreased access to TennCare and cut benefits.
"I think they need to take Memphians and Shelby Countians very seriously," Theryn Bond said. "We have medical conditions that should not go overlooked."
Proponents of the funding change say it would increase financial flexibility and lower costs. Bond, who was denied TennCare after suffering with cervical cancer, disagrees.
"It would be detrimental to myself, to other people like me despite their age but anyone that has any kind of medical condition," Bond said.
Another point of contention, Shelby County was not on the original list of public meeting locations, despite 250,000 TennCare enrollees in Shelby County, the most of any county in the state.
State Representative Karen Camper says Tuesday’s meeting was only scheduled after complaints were sent to the Governor.
“I’m not going to say it was an intentional marginalizing of our voice but that’s how people felt,” Rep. Karen Camper, Tennessee House District 87 said. “So now we’re being heard.”
There is still a long process ahead to approve the block grant funding including sending the proposal to the White House for potential negotiation.
Gov. Lee’s office sent WMC Action News 5 this statement Tuesday:
"Our block grant proposal is an exceptionally innovative approach to how we fund Medicaid in our state. Tennessee has one of the best managed programs in the country (and a high level of accountability) and because of that we are the first state in the country to submit this proposal. While this is a negotiating process with the federal government, Gov. Lee has been adamant about only accepting a good deal for Tennessee. Block grants create greater financial flexibility for the state which in turn offers the chance to improve access and affordability of care. These flexibilities are outlined in the waiver amendment application and include items related to improving program administrative efficiencies; delivering the right care to the right members; adopting commercial tools to lower drug costs; appropriately penalizing Medicaid fraud; addressing inefficient disincentives and promoting value for providers; investing in health rather than health care; and leveraging Medicaid as a catalyst to promote rural health care transformation. I have attached an FAQ document that addresses this and more. "