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Sunday Sound Off: How should Tennessee cover the uninsured?

Johnson City Press • Mar 3, 2019 at 7:15 AM

Tennessee Republican lawmakers have put forth legislation this session to address the gap in the health care access for many low-income and disabled residents, but is it the right solution?

Tennessee is among 14 states that have declined to accept expansion funding since the Obama administration allowed states to increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Originally, the federal government paid 100 percent of expansion costs, but states had to pitch in starting in 2016. Next year, states will have to pick up 10 percent of the costs, hence Tennessee’s reluctance.

Critics of Tennessee’s position argue that taxpayers sends billions to other states by not participating. Meanwhile, an estimated 167,000 Tennesseans do not have health coverage.

The GOP bill’s sponsors want to change the whole way Medicaid money comes to Tennessee. They say the current structure gives states little incentive to keep costs under control.

As reported by the Associated Press last week, the bill calls for Tennessee to ask the federal government to send a fixed amount of Medicaid money each year in the form of block grants. The state would submit a waiver within 120 days of the bill becoming law asking the federal government to either amend or completely rewrite the state’s current Medicaid program.

Block grants would be new territory for the federal government, though, as Democrats argue that states would end up covering fewer people or offering fewer benefits.

We want to hear from you. Are block grants the right solution for covering Tennessee’s uninsured residents? Would the federal government agree to such a plan? Or should Tennessee join the increasing number of states that accept Medicaid expansion in its current form?

This is your chance to sound off. Send your comments to [email protected] Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length.

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