Tennessee Dems ask Biden to rescind block grant waiver to overhaul state’s Medicaid program

Legislative Session Tennessee
Posted at 1:59 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:02:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Tennessee Democrats have written a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to rescind the block grant waiver that would overhaul the state’s Medicaid program.

The plan would make Tennessee the first state to receive funding for its Medicaid program Tenncare through the federal government based on savings and inflation. The bill quickly passed through both houses of the legislature and was signed by Gov. Bill Lee on January 15.

However, even though Tennessee received approval under President Donald Trump’s administration, Biden has opposed block-grant efforts and can rescind the change.

Tennessee Democrats say the General Assembly “rushed the measure” through before the Biden administration took office. Dems say the program would keep millions of Tennesseans uninsured and will end up costing taxpayers substantial legal fees, unless the Biden administration rescinds it before it takes effect.

In their letter to President Biden, Democrats said Gov. Lee and the Republican leadership have proven to be “unable to handle the responsibility of being given more control over federal dollars.”

“In addition to refusing to expand Medicaid for nearly a decade, our state government allowed a $732 million surplus of TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] funds to accumulate, rather than spend that money on what it was intended for – helping families in need,” the letter read, in part.

Republicans contend that states need more flexibility to shape their Medicaid programs, while also being given the opportunity to rein in spending. Democrats, however, have warned that spending caps might cause states to purge their rolls or reduce services. Democrats instead want to widen Medicaid eligibility.

TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, insures approximately 1.5 million low-income Tennesseans, including pregnant women, children, caretaker relatives of dependent children and older adults, and disabled adults.