TennCare director says “number of ways” block grant legal questions can be resolved


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The head of the state’s Medicaid program says there are “a number of ways” to work out potential legal issues concerning a TennCare block grant proposal that will be submitted to the federal government for approval.

This comes after a Facebook live event Friday on the Tennessee House Republican Caucus website led by caucus chair Rep. Jeremy Faison, bill sponsor Rep. Timothy Hill, and TennCare director Gabe Roberts.

Three days of in-person public comment at three locations across the state begin Tuesday in Nashville for the huge proposed change affecting the 1-point-four million Tennesseans enrolled in the TennCare program.

The state hopes to get approval from the federal government to receive at lease 8-billion dollars yearly of Medicaid money in one lump sum–a block grant–instead of the current 2-1 match system of federal to state dollars.

Critics have raised questions if the block grant idea is even legal with it being a possible violation of basic Medicaid law.

TennCare’s director answered the question this way:

“I think there are a number of ways that we can reach an agreement that is consistent with the concepts we have put out in the waiver amendment that is not only agreeable to CMS and the state but also comply with the legal requirement and structure of the Medicaid Act,” says director Roberts.

CMS is the federal agency called Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services which have to approve the block grant proposal that is often called a TennCare waiver amendment.

The TennCare director has other careful words about when changes could actually take place in the TennCare funding.

“We have seen waiver amendments in the past be approved in just a few months and we have seen larger waiver amendments that are more substantive take a year or over a year to be approved

The TennCare director says the huge change for the Medicaid program would be in that latter category of more than a year to approve–with the block grant proposal one of the more “substantive” waivers.

Republicans from Governor Lee on down have said they hope to save money and cover more people with the block grant idea.

Democrats and TennCare advocacy groups say the block grant idea arose because Tennessee legislative Republicans refused to expand TennCare with money already available in the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.  

Here’s a list of locations and times of the public hearings:

Middle Tennessee
Location: Family and Children’s Service, Honey Alexander Center, Training Room B
2400 Clifton Avenue, Nashville
Date: Tuesday, October 1
Time: 2:00 p.m. Central Time

East Tennessee
Location: Burlington Branch of the Knox County Library, Community Meeting Room
4614 Asheville Highway, Knoxville
Date: Wednesday, October 2
Time: 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time

West Tennessee
Location: Jackson-Madison County Library, Program Center
433 East Lafayette Street, Jackson
Date: Thursday, October 3
Time: 2:30 p.m. Central Time

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