Harwell Task Force Announces TennCare Expansion Plan

Posted at 10:54 AM, Jun 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-30 20:46:45-04

A task force commissioned by House Speaker Beth Harwell has announced its plan to improve Tennesseans’ access to healthcare.

The announcement was made Thursday morning and included plans to expand TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program.

“We feel that today's meeting was a significant step forward in achieving the Taskforce’s stated goal of presenting a plan to the legislature that improves access to healthcare and closes the insurance coverage gap,” said Rep. Matthew Hill.

Following the defeat of Insure Tennessee – a plan endorsed by Governor Bill Haslam - Harwell said she began talking to medical policy experts at Vanderbilt University.

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

Republican Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville said the task force has presented its plan to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but acknowledged that no other state has been approved for a similar approach. 

With the new proposal, the focus would be on behavioral health, like mental illness and substance abuse, and uninsured veterans.

The Tennessee Department of Labor would help those in the pilot program find jobs or improve their employment opportunities. Tennessee Reconnect would also work with people through vocational schools or community colleges. 

However, Democrats denounced the plan, calling it "Bethcare" and said it's "too little and way too late."  

The proposal would also need the approval of the GOP-controlled Legislature, which rejected Haslam's Insure Tennessee proposal to extend coverage to 280,000 people amid fears that it was too closely linked to President Barack Obama's signature health care law.