Governor Lee Defends Medicaid Block Grant Program

Photo Credit: Alpha Stock Images / Nick Youngson / CC

Published June 8, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

According to the U.S. Census, more than 836,000 people in Tennessee do not have health insurance. Despite some pushback from the new administration, Governor Lee is hopeful that the Medicaid block grant waiver program will remain in place and will allow more people to get the insurance they need.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

The waiver program was approved during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The new Democratic administration is now asking legal questions about the plan. This questioning could lead them to repeal the waiver or create stricter rules.

“We’re working hard to make sure that we can keep that block grant – we are hopeful that the Biden administration will work with us to allow us to have it,” said Governor Lee.

Lee and his administration would also like for a change to be made in the way the funding is distributed. They would like to receive all of the money in one lump sum, something that has not been done before.

“We just hope that the administration sees the value in this waiver that we have and the ability that we will have to serve more low income folks in our state with greater level of access to healthcare and more services. We hope they see that and we were hoping to be able to show that to them,” Lee continued.

Representative Antonio Parkinson of Memphis feels otherwise about the fight to keep the waiver.

“This is a humanitarian issue. This is not and shouldn’t be a political issue. We’re talking about people’s ability to live and to have access to the care they deserve,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson, a Democrat, does not agree that the waiver is the best option for providing Tennesseans with insurance.

“It really doesn’t help any more Tennesseans that are without insurance, now expansion of Medicaid will allow for the eligibility for folks to have access to Medicaid insurance and the Affordable Care Act which will allow many, many more – almost 300 thousand in some estimates – Tennesseans that are working but cannot necessarily afford insurance while they are working,” Parkinson continued.

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Funding would be increased if enrollment under the waiver goes beyond original estimates.

“This block grant will allow us to provide more services and potentially provide a greater number of people that have access to those services,” Lee said.

The block grant will allow approximately 1.2 million Tennesseans to receive core medical services. It would serve the disabled, blind, children, adults, and the elderly.

Parkinson believes that making some necessary investments is the way to fix the healthcare situation.

“We have over almost $2 billion in our rainy day fund in the state of Tennessee. We could afford to expand Medicaid which would bring additional billions of dollars into our state to help insure those people that are struggling to have access to have great healthcare,” Parkinson said.

Lawmakers will have the final say when they vote on and approve any changes to the Medicaid program in Tennessee.

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