by Vivian Jones
Tennessee Democrats have made multiple pleas to President Joe Biden’s administration, seeking to rescind federal approval for Tennessee’s Medicaid block grant waiver, which is set to allow the state to receive Medicaid funding in a lump sum.
Under the new funding mechanism known as a block grant, Tennessee would receive federal money for the state Medicaid program, TennCare, all at once instead of periodically.
Proponents of the structure said the block grant mechanism will provide the state more flexibility in administration of the funds, and allow the state to benefit from efficient administration of the TennCare program. Tennessee is the first state to receive a Medicaid block grant.
After seeking federal approval for a block grant in 2019, Tennessee received approval January 8, days before the presidential inauguration. The Tennessee General Assembly quickly passed legislation before Biden was sworn in, authorizing TennCare to implement the block grant.
Democrats in the Tennessee House and Senate announced Monday they have formally requested the Biden administration rescind federal approval for Tennessee’s block grant.
“The state has proven themselves unable to handle the responsibility of being given more control over federal dollars,” a letter signed by House and Senate caucus members read.
“Even the most conservative legislatures across the country knew this was a bad deal,” caucus members wrote. “Millions of Tennesseans will remain uninsured, this program will end up costing our taxpayers hefty legal fees, and the end result will likely be that a court will overturn it – unless your incoming administration can stop this waiver before it starts.”
State lawmakers joined Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN-05) in asking the Biden administration to reverse the Trump-era approval.
In a letter earlier this month, Cooper warned Biden the 10-year block grant waiver negotiated by TennCare was an “illegal effort to handcuff your administration.”
“This radical waiver makes Tennessee the first block grant Medicaid state, in other words, treating Tennesseans like guinea pigs,” Cooper wrote.
The Biden administration has not yet indicated whether it is considering reversing approval for Tennessee’s block grant.
– – –