Tennessee's block grant Medicaid funding proposal would be first in nation, leading to questions

Public comment will be taken across the state
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Posted at 5:10 PM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 12:50:29-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (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.

It's a plan that critics say would put some of the state's poorest individuals at risk for losing healthcare coverage.

"My biggest concern is that the most vulnerable people in our state won't have the healthcare they need," said Michele Johnson, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center.

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.

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 mail to:

TennCare Director Gabe Roberts
310 Great Circle Road, Nashville, TN, 37243.