A group that advocates expanding TennCare to more of the state’s poor delivered a petition and stated its case to an aide to Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday, reports The Tennessean.
A coalition that includes the Tennessee Nurses Association, Tennessee League of Women Voters, Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Tennessee Justice Center said it has gathered more than 4,500 signatures for an online petition calling on Haslam to offer TennCare services to everyone making 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
The cost would be paid in full by the federal government through 2016 and in large measure until at least 2020.
Haslam put off a decision on TennCare expansion in March, saying he wanted to continue negotiating with the federal government for a plan that would let the state offer private insurance to new enrollees. He has said he expects to know whether those negotiations will pay off by the end of summer.
Don Johnson, Haslam’s assistant director for constituent services, accepted the petition on the governor’s behalf and met with several advocates. They argued that expanding TennCare would help those who currently do not have coverage as well as rural hospitals that face service cuts or closure.
Note: News release below.
News release from AHealthyTN coalition:
AHealthyTN coalition members delivered 4,555 Tennessee signatures on a petition calling for TennCare expansion, effective January, 2014. Don Johnson of Governor Haslam’s staff accepted the box of signatures and summaries at the State Capitol on Wednesday morning, June 5. Asked by Mr. Johnson if the coalition would accept Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Plan as an alternative, the representatives said yes. However Dr. Mary Headrick praised TennCare as a successful, cost effective managed care plan for Medicaid that would be difficult for a private plan to surpass.
TennCare expansion would extend a program unique to Tennessee, not ‘Obama-Care’. TennCare is our state’s version of Medicaid that is delivered through managed care and private insurance companies. Since its 1994 inception, TennCare has evolved so that this unique Tennessee health insurance program controls cost and enjoys high patient satisfaction.
Refusing TennCare expansion for 2014 leaves $730.7 million of our federal taxes in D.C.. Refusing turns down health insurance coverage for 2014 for more people, up to144,500 folks whose incomes lie under 138% of the federal poverty level, income under $15,856/year or $305/week.
Refusing TennCare expansion has devastating economic impact across the state. 53 hospitals and 20,500 jobs could be lost. See the map of economic impact showing at risk jobs and hospitals by Grand Division.
Refusing TennCare expansion excludes the poorest, the ‘least among us’, childless adults ages 19-64, most of whom work for low wages under 100% poverty, but who do not currently qualify for TennCare. They earn under 100% of poverty, earn less than $221/week but qualify for neither TennCare nor the new health insurance exchange subsidies. Those at 100-138% poverty may be able to buy, with federal subsidies, on the exchanges.
When Mr. Johnson raised the question of sustainability, in which a 3 year TennCare expansion might be followed by potential cancellation in 2017, Dr. Headrick stated that three years of coverage for 2014-2016 was better than zero coverage for the same time period. “Start-ability trumps Sustain-ability”, stated Detlef Matt after the meeting.
AHealthyTN is a coalition of groups that support TennCare expansion as one way to insure the uninsured poor. Participation is open to churches and other groups that share this position.
The petition is viewable with online signatures and citizen comments at
“Governor Haslam, please accept the federal dollars to expand TennCare, beginning January 1, 2014′ to deliver health insurance to those earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level. We want the full three years, 2014-2016, of 100% federally covered TennCare for our needy citizens.”