Tennessee lawmakers talk future of health care at national conference

Posted at 7:50 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 20:50:41-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — To try to find solutions to rural health care issues in Tennessee, some lawmakers are meeting with representatives from other states to share ideas at a conference in Nashville.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is happening in Nashville this week.

Some Tennessee Reps will attend sessions to discuss health care issues mutually faced in other states.

"The majority of our state is rural. So, we can't just have a one size fits all healthcare plan that meets the needs of everyone," said Hixson State Rep. Robin Smith.

As chairman of the Health and Life Insurance Subcommittee, Smith said she's interested in a number of health care issues. She's focusing on physicians in rural health systems, price shopping for patients and surprise billing.

"What Tennessee has done already, 'Right-To-Shop'. Patients should be able to see on their insurance portal a list of shopping opportunities where they can shop and compare within network where they should go," she said.

Smith said she knows people are afraid physicians are retiring in Tennessee's most rural counties and acknowledges the issue of small hospitals closing.

"We want them to stay here. We have a dramatic shortage of physicians as well as nurse practitioners as well as physicians assistants all across the board," Smith said.

However, state representative Mike Stewart of Nashville said the difference for rural counties could happen quickly.

"Here in Tennessee the Republican leadership has been holding us back by blocking healthcare expansion. Everybody knows that's ridiculous. However, I think when we talk to lawmakers from other states we'll realize how bad that is," said Stewart.