After an arduous negotiation process, U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker today applauded CMS (Center for Medicaid Services) approval of TennCare’s waiver renewal application, keeping the 1.2 million Tennesseans who rely on TennCare for their health care coverage enrolled and insured. TennCare’s current waiver expired on June 30, and has been operating under a series of extensions since that date. Today’s announcement from CMS renews TennCare for another three years.
“Today’s renewal of TennCare is welcome news. The State has been negotiating dutifully with CMS for the months in order to continue providing critical health services to Tennesseans that need it the most,” said Alexander. “Senator Corker and I have been working closely together with the Governor’s office to ensure that any new requirements don’t have an unintended impact on Tennessee. Senator Corker was able to do an especially effective job because of his background as a former chief operating officer for Tennessee. Now that the waiver renewal has been resolved, we can all focus on addressing the broader problem of the uninsured.”
“We have been involved over the course of this negotiation process to ensure the current TennCare waiver would be temporarily extended without a lapse and that Tennessee is treated fairly under the new waiver. TennCare’s renewal will ensure that 1.2 million Tennesseans will continue to receive essential health care benefits, and it will protect our state’s safety net hospitals who take on significant costs from indigent care,” said Corker. “Addressing the 45 million Americans, including 800,000 Tennesseans, currently without health insurance remains a huge challenge facing our country and I am continuing to work on making high quality health care coverage accessible, affordable, and portable for all Tennesseans and all Americans.”
“I am extremely grateful to Senator Corker, Senator Alexander and our entire congressional delegation for their unwavering support and their efforts to ensure Tennessee was treated fairly at the federal level,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “I am pleased we were able to successfully negotiate a resolution that will help us better serve the Tennesseans who rely on this program.”
In May, with the TennCare waiver expiration fast approaching, Senators Corker and Alexander wrote a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt inquiring about the status of TennCare’s application and reiterating the urgency of its renewal. The senators also successfully addressed two additional concerns facing TennCare funding.
The first involved a proposed change to the rule regarding allocation of Certified Public Expenditures (CPE) that allows public hospitals to obtain federal Medicaid matching funds. If implemented, the rule change would have cost Tennessee hospitals an estimated $1.3 billion over five years and forced significant cuts in services to Tennesseans. Corker and Alexander voted for a one-year moratorium on the proposed rule, which was included in the supplemental appropriations bill, and the senators urged CMS to amend language in TennCare’s renewal application guaranteeing the state would only be required to comply with the new regulation along with all other states after the one year moratorium on the CPE rule ends.
Second, the senators ensured that Graduate Medical Education (GME) funds, which are meant to support the academic work of Tennessee’s medical students, would go directly to the state’s medical schools, instead of teaching hospitals where they could be reallocated for other purposes.
“Senator Alexander and I had serious concerns about the impact the proposed change in the CPE rule would have on the accessibility and quality of health care Tennesseans receive. I’m proud we have been successful in suspending any cuts for at least a year and in guaranteeing fair treatment for Tennessee after the moratorium ends,” said Corker. “As a former Tennessee finance commissioner, I’m pleased we were able to convince CMS of the importance of protecting education funds for Tennessee’s next generation of doctors from being diverted for other expenditures.”
TennCare was implemented on January 1, 1994 as a five-year demonstration program approved by the federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), now CMS. It replaced the Medicaid program in Tennessee expanding health care coverage to the uninsured and uninsurable who were not eligible for Medicaid. TennCare requires CMS approval in order to receive matching federal dollars which amount to 64 percent of the program’s funding.