Tennessee officials are preparing to cut $300 million in Medicaid spending by limiting doctor and hospital visits, according to a public notice published this weekend.
Tenn. officials planning to limit doc, hospital visits for Medicaid patients
The proposed cuts provide a first glimpse at how Republican Gov. Bill Haslam may begin to close what he has estimated to be a $1 billion budget gap in Tennessee.
TennCare, the state's Medicaid program, proposes to reduce state spending by $103 million, mostly with a cap of eight doctor and hospital visits a year for poor patients enrolled in the expanded program. The state cuts would erase $203 million more in federal matching funds.
Adults make up about one-third of the 1.2 million people enrolled in TennCare.
The benefit cuts were originally planned by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen last year, but they were delayed through a combination of federal stimulus money, prescription refunds and a temporary fee on hospitals.
"The cuts were in last year's budget, they were just brought back," said TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson. "They just weren't implemented because of the one-time funding. "At this time, there's no recurring funding source for those items."
Any changes would have to be approved by the governor and the Legislature.
The public notice was obtained by the Associated Press before it was published in state newspapers. TennCare was required to give public notice 30 days before submitting program change proposals to the CMS.
Lawmakers last year enacted a fee on hospitals that restored $210 million in state TennCare funding — and a federal match of about $717 million.
Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, said the group is working on renewing the assessment fee to generate more than $400 million. But most of that money will be needed to avert a 7 percent cut in reimbursement rates for hospitals and physicians that might otherwise decide to stop treating TennCare patients, Becker said.
"If the physicians get cut, then you really don't have a program," he said.
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