Creation Of Healthcare Task Force Announced

Posted at 2:12 PM, Apr 12, 2016

Alongside Governor Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell has announced a new task force that aims to increase access to health care across the state.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Speaker Harwell said she began talking to medical policy experts at Vanderbilt University following the defeat of Insure Tennessee. That was the plan endorsed by Governor Bill Haslam to expand Medicaid coverage.

The "3-Star Healthy Project" was created by Harwell after those conversations. 

Four Republican House members have been appointed to lead the task force, which is the focal point of the project. They will hold meetings and discussions to develop a list of possible pilot programs to increase care.

The task force has until June to put ideas together and present them to the Governor as well as the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Some of the possible ideas laid out Tuesday were similar to ones featured in Gov. Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan. Those options included encouraging the public to "take more responsibility for their health" and creating Heath Savings Accounts to help cover co-payments. 

But, the task force was unable to provide new ideas and did not have an answer when asked how the programs will be funded.

During the news conference, a protester spoke out to the point where he had to be escorted out of the room.

That frustration spilled into the hallway outside the Old Supreme Court Chambers where Democratic leaders scoffed at Tuesday's announcement.

"This is not a plan. This is a complete joke," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Stewart said. "A political charade. It's entirely done for political purposes, and I would call on the Governor to reinforce his commitment to his own plan."

Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro joked when he said it appeared Speaker Harwell put more thought into the design and funding of the "3-Star Healthy Project" sign than the program itself. He was also frustrated that no Senators were asked to be a part of the group.