Congressman Cohen urges Biden administration not to re-approve Trump’s TennCare waiver
MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today filed formal comments with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services opposing the block grant-type waiver for Tennessee’s Medicaid program, known as TennCare III waiver. The unhealthy waiver, granted by the Trump administration as she left office without public comment, would be a “devastating blow to Tennessee residents who rely on Medicaid to meet their basic health needs.” TennCare is Tennessee’s Medicaid program. The deadline for submitting comments on the plan is Thursday.
Please see Congressman Cohen’s full comments here.
In his statement, Congressman Cohen said in part:
Dear Brooks-LaSure Administrator,
I am writing to express my opposition to the waiver of TennCare III. The waiver, which was approved in the last days of the Trump administration without public comment, prioritizes the frugality of managed care over the health and well-being of Tennesséens. To proceed with the waiver would be a devastating blow to Tennessee residents who rely on Medicaid to meet their most basic health needs.
Tennessee already has a long history of cutting Medicaid spending and services. It spent less for each person enrolled in Medicaid than every other state except three (Georgia, Nevada, and South Carolina). With a life expectancy of 75.5 years, Tennessee is ranked 47th out of 50 states plus Washington, DC. It is also one of twelve states that has not expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act; TennCare registration is only for the poorest and sickest citizens. Tennessee also requires most residents to enroll in managed care plans that use regulatory bureaucracy to deny enrollment care. Tennesseans who need timely care barely have the resources to fight with managed care organizations (MCOs), who feel that a doctor’s prescription does not meet their standards of “medical necessity.”
The TennCare III waiver would encourage AGCs to restrict processing even further because this would institute an overall cap on federal funding and allow Tennessee to direct unused federal Medicaid funds to other “policy priorities.” This block grant funding structure creates a perverse incentive for the state to deny or delay care so that savings from cutting care can be diverted to the preferred projects of lawmakers. The funding cap could also erode TennCare over time as federal support fails to keep up with rising costs.