This week a group of Democratic state representatives met with Governor Lee to implore him to reconsider his stance against expanding Medicaid in Tennessee, as most states already have.
Studies show the states that have expanded Medicaid have seen better health results, economic benefits, and fewer rural hospital closures.
Tennessee is losing $26 Billion over 10 years by not accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion dollars that would cover hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans, including 30,000 veterans, and as a result currently leads the country in rural hospital closures per capita. The 13th rural Tennessee hospital just announced closure in Celina this week, and Democrats held an emotional press conference in the state capitol about it on Monday.
The group of Democrats calls itself the House Democratic Caucus Medicaid Expansion Task Force. They weren’t sure what kind of impact they had on Governor Lee, but said they’ll continue to try.
The general feeling was that the Williamson County-based governor doesn’t seem to understand how desperate for care some Tennesseans are, many of which don’t have another year or two left to wait for a new plan.
They did however say one thing Lee agreed with was preserving the provision of the Affordable Care Act that guarantees the protection of those with pre-existing conditions from discriminatory insurance company practices, which a Republican lawsuit in Texas seeks to undo.
From Rep. Gloria Johnson:
“We will try to continue the conversation, but it’s going to take the people rising up. The current Block Grant bill the Republicans have only takes current TennCare and turns it into block grants, probably serving fewer people than we even do now.”
The Block Grants proposal is something Tennessee Republicans are starting to push hard, with Senate leader Jack Johnson talking to the Tennessean about it this week.
Medicaid expansion is popular in Tennessee.
Block Granting Medicaid is not popular in America:
President Trump is trying to find a way to provide states like Tennessee with a block grant waiver, since they are currently illegal. Even if the president does manage to push that legislation through, it would instantly trigger lawsuits.
Meanwhile the details of the Tennessee Republicans’ Block Grants plan are “vague”, and nobody seems to be sure how it would solve the problem of covering MORE people who aren’t currently covered.
If anything the opposite would be true. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates recent Republican block grant proposals could cut Medicaid spending by as much as a third over the next decade. The cuts would start small, growing larger over the years.
Rep. Gloria Johnson also had this to say about Block Grants:
“Any waiver will instantly be challenged in court. This is not a good faith solution. This is folks who know they are getting hammered and want to appear as if they are doing something.”
It should also be noted that Children’s Hospitals, which rely heavily on Medicaid, are extremely against Block Grants, which they say would lead to cuts in coverage. Jim Kaufman, vice president of public policy for the Children’s Hospital Association, explained that proposals to simply block grant or shift costs to the states are the wrong way to go:
“Block grants cause cost-shifting that further burdens the financially strapped state budgets. Instead, children’s hospitals want to improve access to care while reducing costs.”
“As states are forced to ration finite resources under a block grant, governors and legislators would be forced to choose among three very compelling groups of beneficiaries.
Who are they? Children, the elderly, and the disabled. They are the groups that primarily they would have to choose amongst. Unfortunately, I suspect that children would be the ones that would lose out.”
Just this week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was heard on a phone call explaining to donors that health care issues like this are the reason Republicans got shellacked in November, and that the pre-existing conditions issue was a particular weakness.
Republicans claim to be the ones protecting the provision, but since they are also suing to undo the provision at the same time nobody seems to be buying it.
Even if you aren’t covered by Medicaid, you probably know someone who would be affected by block granting Medicaid.
To encourage Governor Lee to start listening, holler at him HERE.