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Tennessee first state to submit Medicaid Block Grant Proposal

By Tennessee Public News Service

Tennessee has become the first state to submit a Medicaid block grant proposal to federal officials. 

If approved, the proposal would allow the state to make changes to its Medicaid program, known as TennCare

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, says a block grant would allow Gov. Bill Lee to take federal money, without the accountability.

“The fact is, he’s talking about taking a billion dollars out of a program that serves our most vulnerable Tennesseans, and that math doesn’t add up,” she states.

Proponents of block grants say they would shrink the federal price tag for paying for health care. 

Johnson says the federal government will decide on whether or not to approve the state’s request for a Medicaid block grant early next year. She also notes the proposal is open for public comment until Dec. 27.

“There will be a 30-day comment period, and every person in the state can comment and should comment,” Johnson points out.

Johnson says in recent years, block grants have become a bumper sticker political talking point.

“President Trump has said he tried to pass a block grant bill in Congress to block grant the entire Medicaid program,” she points out. “And that was defeated in Congress. It was defeated because it would have jeopardized babies and it would have jeopardized pregnant women and it would have jeopardized seniors.”

Johnson adds that if approved, Tennessee’s block grant proposal would eliminate federal Medicaid rules banning discrimination on the basis of a patient’s pre-existing medical conditions, and would also cut prescription drug coverage.