Call your state representatives now and urge support for this plan
Right now, we in Tennessee have the opportunity to close the health care coverage gap so that more of our fellow Tennesseans can receive the health care they need, while simultaneously saving our hospitals and creating new jobs. And we don’t have to spend any state tax dollars to do it. In fact, we get federal money back.
Gov. Bill Haslam offers these opportunities with his “Insure Tennessee” (IT) proposal. On Monday, Feb. 2, the General Assembly began a special session to learn more about IT.
If passed, Haslam’s proposal will return to us the $1 billion per year that we Tennesseans have paid in federal tax dollars. Instead of remaining out of state, these funds will be returned to us, and will pay for health insurance for low-income adults who are currently left out of TennCare and the ACA.
Initially, the federal funding formula will pay 100 percent of the costs involved, with hospitals making up the difference as the formula gradually changes to 90 percent federal funding by 2020. It’s important to note that this is a plan without risk, since Tennessee can opt out at any time.
Many Tennessee hospitals will be at financial risk if IT is not enacted. Four hospitals “went broke” and closed in 2014. Fifty more are at risk of closing. Tennessee’s 120 hospitals support IT as a way to help them provide care to low-income people, who currently have few resources outside of emergency room care.
By adopting IT, we not only protect low-income Tennesseans, we protect all Tennesseans by making it possible for our local hospitals to remain open and provide health care to the entire community.Additionally, research from the University of Tennessee estimates 15,000 new jobs will be created over ten years by adopting IT, and this is on the top of those jobs saved by avoiding hospital closures.
If the General Assembly votes yes, then 200,000 low-income Tennesseans will be eligible to enroll in one of IT’s two new health plans: the Volunteer Plan (VP) or the Healthy Incentive Plan (HIP). VP provides a voucher to low-income workers to offset the cost of workplace insurance to the employee, leaving an affordable $20-$32 per month that each worker pays.
HIP provides insurance with a low prescription co-pay. This co-pay and other HIP co-pays for enrollees above the poverty line can be paid by health points earned by qualified healthy actions, such as participating in stop-tobacco classes. The working enrollee has the freedom to choose VP or HIP. Neither VP nor HIP is a TennCare or “Obamacare” exchange plan.
The Tennessee Hospital Association, Chamber of Commerce and many others, support IT as I do, because it is a plan that is both morally and economically the right thing to do. Insure Tennessee will provide health care, prevent hospital closures, create jobs and return federal dollars to Tennessee, but only if it is enacted. It is important that we all contact our elected officials and urge a yes vote in the General Assembly.