Tennessee GOP eyes block grants, mulls health care expansion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republican Senate leaders say legislation is in the works that could pave a path to covering more poor people than the current Medicaid system, known as TennCare, using federal block grants.

But they’re adamant it won’t include Medicaid expansion under former President Barack Obama’s health law, an option they have rejected.

The lawmakers said Thursday the yet-to-be-fleshed-out plan would need Medicaid flexibility from the federal government. Senate Speaker Randy McNally said people below 138 percent of the poverty level would be targeted, with vouchers for private insurance or health savings accounts as possibilities.

McNally said Tennessee needs clarity on whether it can receive block grants, either for the entire TennCare system or just expansion patients.

Bill sponsor Sen. Paul Bailey said block grants would allow for an innovative plan.

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