Tennessee Governor Calls on Federal Lawmakers To Place Limits on Medicaid Prescription Drug Coverage
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) on Friday in a press conference in Washington, D.C., called on federal legislators to "come back to the center" on Medicaid, by limiting coverage for prescription drugs to only essential, proven requests and requiring copayments, the Washington Times reports (Fagan, Washington Times, 6/25).
Bredesen also "defended his decision" to eliminate coverage for some adults in TennCare, the state's Medicaid managed care program, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 6/24). Bredesen said he did not plan on this trip to meet with CMS officials who are reviewing his plan (Roxe, AP/Tennessean, 6/25).
On Friday, Bredesen said, "I would like my party to come back to the center on these issues." He added, "Maybe the national party is a little out of touch. This is not radical stuff. The goal is not to retreat from health care, but to advance what it offers to every American" (Washington Times, 6/25).
Speaking about the TennCare cuts, Bredesen said, "What we have has become unsustainable, and I am going through the very painful process of trimming it back to something our state can afford. This is not the right thing to do. This is what we're being forced to do" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/24).
He added, "I happen to be on the leading edge of this because TennCare is the most expensive program in the country, but there are a lot of governors who are struggling with this issue. So my plea is: Don't have other governors go through what some of us are doing right now. But instead, let's get at some of the fundamentals" (AP/Tennessean, 6/25).
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "No governor is cutting the program anywhere close to what this governor is doing" (Washington Times, 6/25).
AARP CEO Bill Novelli said the group is sympathetic to Tennessee's budget constraints; however, he added, "We don't believe that the unprecedented cuts facing vulnerable Tennessee beneficiaries -- both in enrollment and services -- are the answer" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/24).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday reported on TennCare. The segment includes comments from Gordon Bonnyman, director of the Tennessee Justice Center; Bredesen; and a current TennCare beneficiary (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 6/24). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In related news, the New York Times on Monday examined various proposals by legislators, health policy experts, the Bush administration and health insurers to limit Medicaid coverage for long-term care.
According to the Times, several groups are "rushing forward" with proposals to remove beneficiaries "who are not poor by standard definitions, but who rather have exhausted a lifetime of resources or used legal strategies to give their money away." Many such proposals are "likely to be enacted in the coming year," according to the Times.
The "most popular" of these proposals is to slow eligibility in Medicaid by lengthening the time period in which officials can examine whether beneficiaries transferred or sheltered assets, the Times reports. Other proposals include requiring beneficiaries to take out reverse mortgages, encouraging private insurers to offer tax incentives to those who purchase long-term care coverage and expanding the use of "partnership policies," under which those who have exhausted their private insurance benefits can be eligible for Medicaid, the Times reports (Gross, New York Times, 6/27).