Tennessee Medicaid Block Grant waiver approved

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 On Jan, 8,2021, after being in negotiations with the federal government for over a year, Tennessee’s Medicaid Block Grant waiver amendment received the approval they needed from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I applaud the approval of this waiver by CMS. This will give Tennessee the regulatory flexibility we need in order to better serve our citizens and increase quality and access to patient-centered health care in our state,” State Senator Paul Bailey of Sparta, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman, said. “I thank Gov. Lee and our TennCare officials for a job well done in negotiating this waiver.”

Tennessee is the first state in the nation to be granted approval for this type of block grant arrangement, and Bailey, who was the prime sponsor of the legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly, said that it will allow the state to lead the way in innovative approach to health care reform.

The negotiated agreement includes the major components and principles outlined in TennCare’ s original proposal to CMS, in November 2019. The legislation, which was adopted by the General Assembly during the 2019 session, aims to build on Tennessee’s history of effective management of its Medicaid program and provide opportunities for additional federal funding for the purpose of improving the health of TennCare members and communities across Tennessee.

“Today’s agreement represents a continuation of Tennessee’s commitment to innovate, lead, and improve,” Gov. Bill Lee said after making the announcement that the waiver had received federal approval. “We have sought to fundamentally change an outdated and ineffective Medicaid financing system that incentivizes states to spend more taxpayer dollars rather than rewarding states for value, quality and efficiency. Our approved plan will create an unprecedented opportunity for Tennessee to be rewarded for its successful administration of TennCare and further improve the health of TennCare members and Tennessee communities with that reward.”

“We approached our negotiations with CMS and the ultimate agreement with one overriding question and directive from Gov. Lee – will this plan benefit Tennessee, our TennCare program, and the people we serve,” TennCare Director Stephen Smith said, elaborating on the discussions that took place over the past 13-plus months leading up to the decision announced this week.  “We are convinced the answer is yes.  This gives Tennessee the real opportunity to enhance the services we provide to Tennesseans.”

Senator Bailey, the bill’s sponsor, added that he is proud of the work that went into making this happen and paving the way for what he believes is better health care opportunities for Tennesseans.

“They have done an excellent job in bringing us a waiver amendment that can be tailored to Tennessee and that will improve health outcomes for our citizens,” Bailey said. “I also want to thank our bill co-sponsors and legislative staff who worked hard on this legislation. I look forward to working with my colleagues to secure the votes needed for final legislative approval.”

Under Public Chapter 481, the waiver amendment approved by CMS must come back to Tennessee lawmakers for a final vote.

The approved waiver amendment is available on the Division of TennCare’s website by clicking here.

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