White House 'guidance' for TennCare draws conflicting reactions

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — New guidance from the Trump White House about the state’s massive Medicaid program Tenncare saw two very different reactions Thursday.

Minority Democrat leaders on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill said Republican Governor Bill Lee’s federal block grant waiver proposal to overhaul TennCare funding was “D.O.A.”

In a press release, TennCare said the White House guidance—officially called the Healthy Adult Opportunity Guidance—was “very encouraging.”

All this follows a White House meeting where President Trump met with Seema Verma, who heads the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).

Politico reports that Verma said the Tennessee (block grant ) request is broader than the scope of the new guidance.

“What they are doing is allowing block grants for states that have expanded Medicaid,” said Senate Democrat leader Jeff Yarbro.

Expanding the state’s Medicaid program TennCare is something Tennessee has not done with the billions of dollars available for nearly a decade with money from the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Tennessee Democrats further questioned the future of Republican Governor Lee’s block grant waiver request that asks for the flexibility from the federal Medicaid rules overseen by CMS.

“They are not letting it apply to the traditional Medicaid population of the elderly, this disabled and pregnant women

A lengthy statement from TennCare saw the White House guidance much differently.

The agency said “while this guidance does not address Tennessee’s block grant proposal directly, or require any change in our approach, it is very encouraging that it reflects several of the key innovative principles we identified in our waiver request.”

The statement said those principles included shared savings from Medicaid projected costs for each state and flexibility regarding prescription drug benefits for states like Tennessee.

Governor Lee could have more to say about the issue in his State of the State address Monday.

Lee has said that if the block grant deal is not a good one for Tennessee, he will not pursue it.

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