NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee is aiming to cover the cost of diapers during the first two years of a baby’s life for mothers in the state’s Medicaid program, known as TennCare.
TennCare Director Stephen Smith explained that nationally about one in three families struggles with having enough resources to purchase diapers. TennCare is aiming to get federal approval to provide about half the diapers that a family would need in a given month.
“We also know that lack of diapers can result in diaper rash, UTI issues,” said Smith. “That in turn can result in missed attendance at early childhood education programs, it can impact family’s ability to go to work so we just think it’s a benefit that can really help these families and in turn improve health.”
This year’s budget includes expanding TennCare to underserved parents. State officials said this would support an extra 8,100 parents each year. They also plan to make Tennessee’s post-partum coverage benefit permanent, saying it would ensure a full year of TennCare coverage to support approximately 3,000 new mothers every year.
“We started that as a pilot project a couple of years ago. And prior to that postpartum coverage, it it closed after 60 days. And so we started a pilot project, and we increase that to a full 12 months,” said Smith. “Now we’re going to make that permanent with this change. And so that will provide the full scale of benefits through TennCare to those new mothers.”
The governor’s budget included establishing continuous coverage for children, ensuring no lapse in coverage for children for at least a year, which will help an estimated 10,000 children remain enrolled.
It also adjusts TennCare’s income threshold for pregnant women to 250% of the federal poverty level to cover an additional 2,400 new mothers in need every year. Smith explained that there are currently income caps for different populations including for the parent/caretaker/relative category. Their intention is base benefits on poverty levels versus a specific dollar ammount.
“The importance of that is going forward, anyone 100% and below would be eligible for Medicaid. And then if you are above 100%, and you’re, for example, between 100% and 150%, then there are very affordable plans that are available through the federal marketplace,” said Smith. “So there are subsidies available for those individuals and that will kind of close that coverage gap.”
He says they’re able to make these provisions due to $330 million in shared savings under the Tenncare Medicaid waiver. This means no additional cost to Tennessee taxpayers.
“Back in 2020, we successfully negotiated a first of its kind agreement with the federal government, and that’s known as TennCare III. And the core principle of this agreement is that, for the first time, Tennessee is rewarded for our sound management, responsible management of our Medicaid program and that reward comes in the form of additional federal dollars that we then can reinvest back into our TennCare program to enhance benefits and services or serve more people in need.”
The TennCare expansions were part of the Governor’s $56.2 billion budget that was passed during the 2023 legislative session, including his Strong & Healthy Families initiative.
The $330 million in shared savings under our first-in-the-nation TennCare Medicaid waiver will help provide for the health of mothers and infants in our most vulnerable communities, providing care at no additional burden to Tennessee taxpayers that will:
- Cover the cost of diapers during the first two years of a baby’s life for mothers on TennCare, becoming the first state in the nation to support parents in this way
- Expand TennCare to underserved parents, supporting an extra 8,100 parents each year
- Establish continuous coverage for children, ensuring no lapse in coverage for children for at least a year, which will help an estimated 10,000 children remain enrolled
- Make permanent Tennessee’s post-partum coverage benefit, ensuring a full year of TennCare coverage to support approximately 3,000 new mothers every year
- Adjust TennCare’s income threshold for pregnant women to 250% of the federal poverty level to cover an additional 2,400 new mothers in need every year
- $20 million for Crisis Pregnancy Provider Support Grants to support crisis pregnancy non-profits, improving access to healthcare and information for expecting mothers
- $10.25 million for TN Fosters Hope grant funding to elevate high quality care for children and families impacted by foster care and adoption, allowing providers to expand services to foster and adoptive families
- $29 million to expand programming for children with complex or special needs that face challenges being placed in a traditional foster or adoptive home by further developing the provider network and providing respite and long-term care