Some reporting from HarwellCare task force, meeting 6

Excerpts from some reporting on the sixth meeting of House Speaker Beth Harwell’s “3-Star Healthy Project” task force, held Tuesday in Nashville and to be followed by at least one more session with federal health care officials:

WPLN says the group “seems to favor giving more support to clinics over offering poor Tennesseans government insurance through Medicaid.”

That’s somewhat encouraging to Mary Bufwack, the president and chief executive of United Neighborhood Health Services, a network of nonprofit clinics around Nashville that provide primary and OB/GYN care. Bufwack agrees getting low-income people in to see doctors would be a good thing, but who pays for what happens after that, when those doctors discover medical problems that need more treatment?

“Expanding primary health care actually sometimes uncovers and identifies problems that need more specialists,” Bufwack says. “My concern is we make sure the people have the access needed to specialty, hospital and other kinds of services that are absolutely vital.”

Plus, Bufwack says, Tennessee’s clinics are nowhere close to being big enough to handle the number of people who need coverage.

From The Tennessean:

The five lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s meeting — Sexton, Reps. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; Steve McManus, R-Cordova; and Karen Camper, D-Memphis — reached no conclusions, but a variety of government officials offered ideas to consider as the group moves forward.

During his presentation, Douglas Varney, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, made a variety of recommendations to the group, including suggesting that providing primary care providers with more education on substance abuse can help address the needs of those struggling with the problem.

Beyond Varney, the task force also heard testimony from Raquel Hatter, commissioner of the Department of Human Services, and Valerie Nagoshiner, chief of staff for the Department of Health. Hatter fielded several questions about the various programs that provide temporary financial assistance to Tennesseans, while Nagoshiner focused her comments on a variety of health care safety nets the state has.

With significant talks about mental health and substance abuse throughout the day, Sexton ultimately concluded the issue probably would be included in the task force’s final recommendations.

“If we’re looking at starting at some point, I’d say there’s a good chance that we would be starting at the behavioral health side,” he said after the meeting.

From Nashville Post Politics:

In comments after the almost three-hour meeting, committee member Rep. Roger Kane (said) that whatever the task force comes up with won’t be a whitewashed version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to expand insurance coverage.

“We’re not going to be able to get Insure Tennessee 2.0 through the House,” Kane said bluntly. When asked if legislators, once safely re-elected in November, might change their minds, Kane shook his head. “I’m going to say the answer is still no. It wasn’t an election year last year, and we couldn’t get it passed then.”

It remains unclear whether the task force created by House Speaker Beth Harwell to come up with a conservative alternative to Insure Tennessee actually has the wherewithal or the political capital to get anything done.

… Beyond an expansion of low-cost community health clinics, which task force chair Rep. Cameron Sexton has endorsed, nothing in today’s presentations indicated what other ideas might make it into an official proposal — although a few moments were revealing of the panel’s general lack of knowledge surrounding some of the issues.