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News Release from the Republican Party of Tennessee, April 18, 2019:

Link: https://www.tngopsenate.com/2019/04/18/capitol-hill-week-legislation-calls-for-medicaid-block-grant-waiver-to-construct-an-innovative-plan-that-better-serves-the-needs-of-tenncare-recipients/

Legislation calls for Medicaid block grant waiver to construct an innovative plan that better serves the needs of TennCare recipients

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), April 18, 2019 – Major legislation calling for Tennessee’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration to request a block grant waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to better serve recipients of the state’s TennCare program was approved by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week.

Senate Bill 1428, sponsored by Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), is designed to maximize flexibility in constructing an innovative plan that serves the needs of Tennesseans, while ensuring the state continues to receive its full share of federal Medicaid dollars.

“The overall goal is to provide an effective and innovative plan that is specific to the healthcare needs of all Tennesseans, while lowering costs and increasing access to patient-centered care,” said Senator Bailey. “We need the flexibility to determine what is best for our citizens instead of continuing down the path of a one-size-fits-all program from Washington.”

Bailey said the legislation has been worked on diligently over the past several weeks with TennCare officials, Senator Lamar Alexander’s office, and Senate leadership.

“I, along with Senate leadership, have worked diligently to address the concerns of all stakeholders,” added Bailey. “We are in a unique situation with Senator Lamar Alexander currently chairing the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and I am confident his office will continue to be a valuable resource moving forward.”

The legislation requires the commissioner to submit the block grant waiver request to CMS within 180 days of the bill’s enactment. The block grant must convert funding for the program into an allotment that is tailored to meet the needs of Tennesseans. Coverage for the existing TennCare population would be maintained under the proposal.

The bill specifies that funds must be indexed for costs such as population and inflation growth. Funding must remain at the level set, without any decrease in the federal share based on deflation or a reduction in population. Administrative costs would be excluded, permitting the state to continue to draw federal matching funds for operating the program. To provide maximum flexibility regarding pharmacy benefits, the amendment includes fluctuation of prescription drug costs, diabetic testing supplies, and over-the-counter medications.

In addition, the proposal gives the state additional flexibility to serve other needy populations with distinct financial or healthcare needs.

The measure would become law upon Governor Lee’s signature. It now goes to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee for consideration, and must also receive approval from the Finance, Ways and Means Committee before moving to the full Senate for a final vote.

The 111th Tennessee General Assembly commenced in Nashville on Tuesday, with both chambers of the legislative branch selecting members of the Republican caucus to preside over the respective lawmaking bodies.

The House and Senate are again this session dominated by Republicans. For the past six years the GOP has enjoyed supermajority control of both statehouse chambers, as will be the case now for at least two more years.

For that reason, when the Republican House and Senate caucus members met late last year to choose their nominees for the respective speaker posts, it was a foregone conclusion that their picks would go on to ultimately win approval before the full legislative chambers.

In the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, Randy McNally of Oak Ridge was approved to serve a second term as the chamber’s gavel-bearer. McNally has served 32 years in the state Senate, and before that eight years in the House.

All 26 Republican senators present voted for McNally. All five of the chamber’s Democrats abstained, although they did not nominate a speaker candidate of their own.

As speaker of the Senate, McNally is also officially designated as Tennessee’s lieutenant governor.

Floor sessions in the House of Representatives for the next two years will be supervised by Williamson County Republican Glen Casada.

A 10-term House lawmaker and longtime fixture in lower-chamber GOP caucus leadership circles, Casada is replacing Beth Harwell at the speaker’s podium.

Harwell, a Nashville Republican who holds the distinction of serving as Tennessee’s first female legislative speaker, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and didn’t seek re-election to the statehouse.

Casada beat out the Democrats’ speaker nominee, Karen Camper of Memphis, by a vote of 75-22. Three members of the minority caucus — Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, John DeBerry of Memphis and John Mark Windle of Livingston — crossed party lines and voted for Casada. Another Democrat, Darren Jernigan of Old Hickory, abstained.

During remarks after taking the speaker’s oath of office, Casada noted that 28 of this session’s House lawmakers are new faces in the General Assembly. “Now that our elections are over and behind us, we must come together and tackle the greater task, which is governing,” he said.

Casada promised that the House will under his leadership assume a more active role in state government budget-writing and spending oversight. He said he wants to see the General Assembly more assertively exercise its “voice intended by the Tennessee Constitution.”

Lawmakers, lobbyists and Capitol-watchers can also expect “a committee process that is more balanced and ensures important pieces of legislation have a fair opportunity to make it to the House floor, instead of being held up by technicalities,” Casada said.

He pledged that “partnership, not partisanship” will mark his leadership style.

“We will…work to build a bond of bipartisanship across this chamber,” Casada said.