Gov. Haslam announces new health care program, no expansion to traditional Medicaid

Gov. Bill Haslam (source: State of Tennessee)

NASHVILLE (WATE) – Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled Monday a new health care plan called “Insure Tennessee,” a two-year pilot program to provide health care coverage to Tennesseans who don’t currently have access to health insurance or have limited options.

“We made the decision in Tennessee nearly two years ago not to expand traditional Medicaid,” Haslam said. “This is an alternative approach that forges a different path and is a unique Tennessee solution. This plan leverages federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Tennesseans, to give people a choice in their coverage, and to address the cost of health care, better health outcomes and personal responsibility,” said Haslam in a news release.

The program will not create any new taxes and will not add any state cost to the budget. The Tennessee Hospital Association says the industry will cover any additional cost to the state and the program will automatically end if federal funding or support from the hospitals is modified.

Tennesseans below 138 percent of poverty, or $16,100 for an individual or $27,300 for a family of three, can qualify for the program. Those 21 to 64 years will be offered either a Healthy Incentives Plan or a Volunteer Plan.

The Volunteer Plan provides a health insurance voucher to participants that they can use to pay for premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with their employer’s health insurance plan.

Those enrolling in the Healthy Incentives Plan would receive coverage through a redesigned component of TennCare, which uses “Healthy Incentives for Tennesseans” accounts, modeled after health reimbursement accounts that can be used for a portion of required member cost-sharing.

Newly eligible individuals who choose to participate in the TennCare program and whose incomes are above 100 percent of poverty will be required to pay premiums and copays for services. All enrollees, including those with incomes below poverty, will have modest pharmacy copays. TennCare members earn contributions into their HIT accounts by performing healthy behaviors. The account then can be used to cover copayment expenses.

The governor plans to call a special session to focus on the proposal after the 109th General Assembly convenes in January.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both issued statements about the new plan:

“Governor Haslam deserves credit for insisting upon a Tennessee plan that the state can afford, and Secretary Burwell deserves credit for being flexible enough to allow the governor to achieve that,” said Alexander.

“I have had several conversations with Governor Haslam and appreciate the work he and his team have done to study this issue closely and negotiate a tailored solution that works for Tennessee. I’m glad the administration has finally allowed appropriate flexibility, and I’m pleased our state was able to adopt a solution that will build off of the innovative ways we deliver quality health care,” said Corker.

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