State’s foot-dragging on TennCare coverage is shameful
I’m amazed that healthcare is one issue that our country can’t agree on. No matter who proposes a new plan, what it’s called, or how many times it’s revised, there’s always someone left unsatisfied. A more affordable healthcare system for everyone seems “too ridiculous” to some, and expanding a program designed to help low-income families and individuals has to be determined by each state to be “fair.”
Which is why I wish I lived in a state that voted to expand the Medicaid program when I heard about the controversy over TennCare.
TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, has been in the news multiple times throughout the year, most recently due to the lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Justice Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Health Law Program and 11 patients who had applied for TennCare, but had been waiting for coverage for months.
U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell ruled against TennCare, stating that anyone who applied for coverage and had proof of an extended delay must be given a hearing with an administrative law judge within 45 days (or 90 for applicants with disabilities).
What does this mean? Does this mean that a federal court judge had to step in to resolve the problems of a state-operated program that tried to blame anything but itself? Unfortunately—yes. Does it mean that only the 11 patients involved in the lawsuit will benefit? Luckily—no.
Given its class action status, the lawsuit means that the court’s decision will benefit all persons throughout Tennessee who faced TennCare application delays.
The ruling, unfortunately, doesn’t fix this controversy right away, but at least it brings attention to an issue that hasn’t been handled properly and that could have been avoided if those in charge had been more responsible.
“This is a big progress in the right direction,” said SPLC staff attorney Sam Brooke. Brooke noted that those who applied for TennCare coverage should either keep a copy of their application or, if they applied through the federal market place, their application identification number. Either one of these can be used to verify their application date at their hearing.
“We’re waiting and seeing what this actually means in practice,” Brooke said, adding that the SPLC staff was “cautiously optimistic” but would be keeping a close eye on TennCare.
For anyone experiencing problems with their TennCare application, or anyone with questions about coverage or a hearing, Brooke listed two numbers they can call: the Tennessee Health Connection, (855) 259-0701, or the Tennessee Justice Center (877) 608-1009.
“We hope that people [experiencing problems] will contact the state,” Brooke said.
Fortunately, I’m not affected by this controversy, and you might not be either, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the people who are. Regardless of political preference and socioeconomic status, no one should have to suffer, waiting until a federal judge fixes what the state should have ensured never happened in the first place.
Not when coverage for someone’s health is on the line.