Tennessee unveils $7.9B block grant proposal for Medicaid

Posted at 1:37 PM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 18:47:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WTVF) — Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to receive its Medicaid funding in a lump sum under a proposal seeking to drastically overhaul the entitlement program that provides health care services to low-income and disabled residents.

State officials released details of the anticipated $7.9 billion Medicaid block grant plan Tuesday, ahead of the November deadline requiring the state to submit its final proposal to the federal government.

To date, no state has been given permission to rely solely on block grants to pay for Medicaid. However, Republican Gov. Bill Lee says support is growing under President Donald Trump's administration.

"I think Tennessee knows best what Tennesseans need, and so, the federal government is encouraging these types of proposals because if they find states like ours that are doing a really effective and efficient job of delivering services and they reward us for such, the other states will want to follow," Lee said. "Ultimately what that means is the cost of health care will be lowered. If states line up to be more efficient because they'll be rewarded for such then it will lower the cost of health care."

Currently, the federal government pays an agreed-upon percentage of each state's Medicaid costs, no matter how much they rise in any given year.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini released the following statement regarding Gov. Bill Lee's recently unveiled Medicaid block grant plan:

"Republican leaders who allowed the state to purge 128,000 children from TennCare, now want to entirely do away with federal Medicaid rules that protect coverage for low-income children and Tennesseans. And by capping federal Medicaid funding, this plan will force the state to cut vital services or balance funding shortfalls on the backs of state taxpayers in the event of an economic downturn or an unforeseen rise in health care costs.
Make no mistake: this is an unprecedented experiment that only stands to pull the rug from beneath thousands of TennCare recipients. It is grossly irresponsible, and when it fails, Tennessee's most vulnerable citizens will pay the price — not Governor Lee.
If Gov. Lee is serious about expanding health coverage for Tennesseans, Democrats stand ready to work together to expand Medicaid. Unlike this unprecedented block grant experiment, we know that Medicaid expansion will drastically improve our coverage rate, bolster local economies, and curb rural hospital closures."

Three public hearings are scheduled across the state before Governor Bill Lee submits the proposal to the federal government.

In Nashville, the public can participate on October 1 at 2 p.m. The hearing will be held at the Honey Alexander Center located at 2400 Clifton Ave. in Training Room B.

You can also submit a comment by emailing or by postal mail to TennCare Director Gabe Roberts at 310 Great Circle Road, Nashville, TN, 37243.