Thursday, August 22, 2002

And Now The Pitch

In yesterday's posts, I commented on this Paula Wade story in the Commercial Appeal, about the advocates of TennCare painting a horror show regarding the spending cuts and enrollment reductions to come. It was the set up for this story, again by Wade, in today's paper.

Covering the meeting between TennCare's Director, Manny Martins, and State Legislators, Wade reports that TennCare will fall over $250 million short. Radio news reports today indicate that about $100 million in new funds will be needed; the rest will be made up from reserve funds.

Wade's story builds from the terrifying and lop-sided reporting she previously did. Talking about the enrollment reductions, she calls them "enrollees being culled." Culled, like livestock. Nice scare image.
Some committee members echoed TennCare advocates' fears
that some of the state's most vulnerable citizens, including the
mentally ill and those with catastrophic illnesses, will end up cut
from the program even though they qualify under the new rules....

"I knew people were going to get slammed, but today it just all
hit home," said Sen. Roy Herron (D-Dresden).

"When we considered the waiver, there were so many flaws and
problems that the committee discovered that they hid still other
flaws and problems we didn't catch. The upshot of it is that if
you're working to try and provide for your family, you're no longer
eligible to get on TennCare no matter how desperately you need
health care," Herron said.
Again, more scariness intended to sway the reader back to Wade's thesis that we need TennCare, regardless of cost.
Prior to TennCare, the state ran a catastrophic health insurance
pool for uninsurables, but it was abolished when TennCare was
So we replaced it with TennCare, which is a much larger problem? Not a good solution. Political solutions to the machinations of profit-seeking insurance companies, which have inserted themselves between the doctor and patient, are not the way to go. You get what we now have--a giant money drain of dubious worth.
Lawmakers acknowledge that the details of TennCare's rewrite,
new federal waiver and its implementation were almost
completely ignored during the last legislative session's
all-consuming debate over the state's fiscal crisis. And because
many blamed TennCare for the state's financial problems, there
was considerable zeal to cut the program's membership rolls and
benefit levels.
Two points to address here. First, that the "all-consuming debate" consumed Legislators' attention can be laid squarely at House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's feet. He engineered that debacle, from start to end. Had he not driven events to the brink as he did, had he recognised his defeat much earlier, then the details could have been examined and debated as they should.

Second, that "many blamed TennCare" bit implies that TC's money drain is a matter of opinion. It's not. It's a documented fact. Wade is trying to create wiggle space, room to drive the wedge of overturning TC changes, where none exists.
Of the 140,000 non-Medicaid enrollees who've been notified by
letter so far that they must be interviewed and offer proof that
they qualify under the new "TennCare Standard" program rules,
only 14,000 have scheduled appointments with DHS as required.
That's a real concern. But how many are "real" enrollees and how many are false? We don't know yet and if Wade had her way, we'd never know. Once on TC, folks would be there forever.
Martins, peppered with questions about people who might not
receive their notices at all, finally answered lawmakers by using
their own words: It's part of a get-tough TennCare Reform bill
passed this year.
"Peppered?" Another cheap tactic. As is "get-tough TC Reform..." Any change is tough on someone, and the documented abuses within TC require addressing. When you go from 4% of the population on public heath care to 24%, in less than a decade, you have to recognize that something's wrong!

Astute Reader Tim found some very interesting statistics that illuminate why TennCare reform is needed. As he wrote in comments to the first post:
Interesting TennCare story is the enrollment by
county. Those counties on other states' borders (42)
have about 26.8% of their populations on TennCare.
Move in one county from the border (41 counties) and
it's 24.3%. Move in two counties from the border (12
counties) and it's 19.9%. Williamson County scores
lowest at 7.4%. Hancock county is highest at 51.2%.
All numbers as of April 2002.
But we don't need reform, do we?

One last bit. Go here and click on the link to Bill Day's cartoon, regarding TennCare. He's basically calling concerned legislators mindless murderers. It's excessive and despicable. 'Nuff said.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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