Gov. Phil Bredesen Cut Elderly, Sick and Disabled From TennCare While Enrolling Refugees

Phil Bredesen

Phil Bredesen, the health insurance executive turned governor, had an antidote to contain the spiraling costs of the state’s Medicaid program – disenroll elderly, sick and disabled Tennesseans from TennCare.

According to Gordon Bonnyman, co-founder of the Tennessee Justice Center, two years into Bredesen’s first term as governor, “[a]pproximately 200,000 of [TennCare’s] costliest patients lost their coverage over a four-month period in late 2005.”  Bonnyman characterized this group as the “sickest subgroup of the TennCare population.”

The TNReport calculated that by the time Bredesen left office in 2011, approximately 350,000 Tennesseans were cut from TennCare which included an estimated 100,000 people with disabilities.

At the same time that Tennesseans were losing their TennCare coverage, refugees being resettled in the state were being assisted by refugee resettlement contractors to enroll into TennCare.

A spokesman for State Senator Bill Ketron’s office confirmed to The Tennessee Star that Holly Johnson, director of Catholic Charities’ Tennessee (CCTN) Office for Refugees (TOR) provided data requested by the Senator which included the number of arriving refugees being enrolled into TennCare. Senator Ketron’s office shared that data with The Star.

Bredesen’s action several years earlier of withdrawing Tennessee from administering the federal refugee program created the opportunity for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to hand over running of the state’s program to Catholic Charities. With its new designation from the U.S.ORR and more federal funding, CCTN expanded refugee operations and established TOR to coordinate all refugee resettlement in the state.

Between 2003 and 2011, Bredesen’s last year as governor, over 9,000 refugees of multiple ethnicities were brought to Tennessee by federal contractors.

The data provided by TOR to Senator Ketron showed that in FY2010, federal contractors resettled 1,734 refugees in Tennessee and 1,157 in FY2011. Forty-eight percent of the refugees arriving in 2010 and 58 percent arriving in 2011, were assisted by refugee contractors to enroll into TennCare.

In 2010, when 834 refugees reported by TOR were applying for TennCare benefits, Tennesseans Ashley Manes and Jessica Pipkin, both of whom were paralyzed as a result of car accidents, were dropped from  TennCare per Bredesen’s disenrollment plan.

Ashley Manes who was 14-years old in 2010, when her TennCare coverage was discontinued, had been paralyzed and ventilator dependent since age 4 when she was injured in the car accident.

Jessica Pipkin, a 28-year old mother of two in 2010, also lost the TennCare services that enabled her to live at home with her husband and children.

Ashley and Jessica were part of a group estimated at “[a]bout 100,000 people — mostly elderly or disabled residents — have been dropped since January 2009, including approximately 37,000 who had relied on the state program for all their health care needs.”

Jessica was reported to have been dropped from TennCare because she had lost her eligibility for SSI – the federal Supplemental Security Income benefit provided to help elderly, blind and people with disabilities to obtain food, clothing and shelter, but who have “little or no income.” When Jessica was able to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits which are separate from SSI, the $14,400 she received, combined with her husband’s $19,000 annual salary, was deemed too high to qualify for SSI, the benefit that made her eligible for TennCare.

Similar to other people who rely on nursing care, medications and assistance with many daily tasks in order to live with their families or in their communities as opposed to nursing homes, the cost of Jessica’s care outstripped her family’s income which was considered too high to have allowed her to keep her TennCare coverage.

Unlike other immigrants, refugees brought to the U.S. are immediately able to apply for all public assistance benefits such as food stamps, medicaid, cash welfare and public housing but must meet the same eligibility requirements as U.S. citizens in order to receive the benefits.

In March 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly representing the State, sued the federal government for violating the Tenth Amendment by forcing the state to use its revenue to pay certain costs related to refugees that were supposed to be paid for by the federal government. When a refugee enrolls into TennCare, only part of that cost is paid by the federal government with the remainder paid from state revenues.

The Thomas More Law Center is handling Tennessee’s lawsuit which has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.










Related posts

11 Thoughts to “Gov. Phil Bredesen Cut Elderly, Sick and Disabled From TennCare While Enrolling Refugees”

  1. […] issue is central to Tennessee’s Tenth Amendment lawsuit against the federal government. Data provided to The Tennessee Star by State Senator Bill Ketron’s office showed that “in FY2010, […]

  2. Used to live on Cookson Creek

    Ironic. The press lack of understanding of how insurance works. Some get less so everyone may have more. Shared risk.

  3. Larry

    I don’t understand why the woman who was on SSI and then went on SSDI don’t just get Medicare coverage? Doesn’t SSDI entitle one to get SSDI? And usnt SSDI more than SSI?

  4. Beezer

    Guess I won’t be moving to Tennessee to retire. Pretty awful when people pay taxes all their lives. Things are pretty upside down right now and don’t make a lot of sense in this country!
    I live in Michigan and my BC/BS cobra ran me from $7.00/wk when I worked to $650.00 a month now that I retired at 62 because I needed surgery. It is 2/3 of my social security. Can’t wait to see what I pay when my Cobra ends in 3 months. Since Obama came into office, the health insurance has skyrocketed to the moon. I hope Trump gets the govt out of the health care business. Ugh!

  5. Elizabeth Barnett

    I was one of those that had Tenncare, payed a premium for it monthly then was kicked out of TC, no explanation, just removed. I had no insurance for years, I went the the local heath dept until they could no longer fill some of my medications. Not complaining just stating a fact, was grateful that the health dept could help me. I didn’t realize how much having insurance meant until I no longer had it.

  6. Dr. Phil

    Past behavior is an indicator of future behavior.

  7. Sabrina Harper

    Shameful but true. What’s a poor disabled Tennessean gonna do? We’ll get the shaft, over & over again… because there are many more like Mr. Bredesin!

  8. Rick

    If people ever learn how our politicians, including Bredesen, have sold out our country for immigration there will be an uprising or more as stated previously. The American people have been kept in the dark by the media and our corrupt politicians. It is completely unbelievable that Democrats want open borders, how they can even make that statement is an insult to the American people

  9. Wolf Woman

    What kind of person takes away medical care from elderly and disabled Tennesseans and gives it to those who have just arrived from other countries? It’s not the kind of person I want for my senator.

    I guess Bredesen had to keep in the good graces of his base, the leftist Catholics who found a new money spigot to take the place of the tithes that weren’t coming in due to a lack of bodies in the pews.

  10. Bruce Ross

    One of my good friends and neighbor growing up, he was on TennCare . Then Governor Bredesen Culled TeenCare of the sickest patients. He was among them, at the time he was fighting cancer. He later died. This should be a lesson in why not to have government run health care.

  11. Donna Locke

    People should read Don Barnett’s research into the deception of refugee self-sufficiency. Don lives in Middle Tennessee and is affiliated with the Center for Immigration Studies. Google his name and “refugees self-sufficient.” Refugees can still be getting welfare even eight years after landing here but are proclaimed self-sufficient. We have a refugee INDUSTRY with profiteers that include Catholic Charities. Average Americans have been so taken advantage of by immigration policy that if they ever grasp the extent of it, they will do something more radical than elect Donald Trump.

    Thanks for reporting this, Chris.