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NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist wants to curtail enrollment in TennCare, the Medicaid managed care waiver program that covers a quarter of the state’s population.
The cost of TennCare, $3.8 billion in 1998-99, is growing by $142 million a year. In an attempt to solve the program’s financial woes, eligibility would first be denied—at least temporarily—to uninsured adults. Adults now on TennCare and children eligible for the program would not be affected.
The governor also has proposed scaling back the program’s benefit package to make it "no more generous than what most Tennesseans can afford to buy for themselves."
Those who appear to be most affected by the proposals are high-risk and elderly residents who opt for Medicaid in lieu of employer-based coverage or Medicare supplement policies. The number of people on TennCare who were previously unable to obtain health insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition rose from 356,000 in July 1996 to 519,000 in December 1998.
If one of the goals of TennCare’s Medicaid waiver was to expand health insurance access to groups not previously covered, the strategy seems to have worked. The percentage of TennCare enrollees who are eligible for the program under more restrictive, conventional Medicaid guidelines dropped from 70% in July 1996 to 60% in December 1998.
—Tennessean, Feb. 10