Gov. Haslam's TennCare Decision Could Have Big Impacts - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Gov. Haslam's TennCare Decision Could Have Big Impacts

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Governor Haslam announced he won't expand TennCare with federal dollars offered to comply with the Affordable Care Act. He wants to use the money to buy private insurance for thousands of uninsured. Now some are worried about the most vulnerable Tennesseans.

Ryehessa Key is a recovered drug user who's been homeless for more than a decade.

"It is hard. It is," she said Friday. "I've been clean for a while now. I'm taking my medication and doing what I'm supposed to do."

Key was diagnosed with heart problems in her late 20s and underwent surgery, but now faces the same problem as so many people who live on the streets.

"It's hard for me to have a heart doctor and actually go see one because of the simple fact of me not having insurance," she said.

Meghan Rowland Boyls is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Key's downtown clinic, United Neighborhood Health Services, where nine out of every ten patients don't have insurance. Rowland Boyls says the problem goes much further than the homeless or less fortunate.

"There are plenty of people. Friends, colleagues that I can think of who are working part time and don't have insurance because of that and can't get the access to care they need," Rowland Boyls said.

That's why they were so interested in Governor Haslam's decision this week to ask if the state can use $1.4 billion in federal funds, meant to expand TennCare, to buy private insurance for an estimated 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans. The money is meant to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Many healthcare groups have come out against Haslam's decision.

The Governor made it clear he is not shutting the door on federal dollars. He hopes to buy private insurance through new federal insurance exchanges this October, assuming the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources approves.

"Some people are portraying this as Haslam says no to expansion. That's not the message. The message is we think we have a better way to do this, but we don't have all the answers," the Governor said during a press conference this week.

The fear is if patients don't understand using or enrolling in a private system, or if the idea simply gets denied.

"Thinking about it not going through is not really that different than where we are right now," Rowland Boyls went on to say.

That's why Key hopes it does happen, not only for her, but anyone in her situation.

"We're not a label. We're not someone that just too many people don't want to fool with. We are somebody and most of all we're God's children," Key said.


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