Tatum concerned about TennCare

Posted By | June 17, 2002 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
In 1993, Tennessee faced a budget shortfall of over $250 million state dollars caused largely by increases in Medicaid spending, and state officials during this period were forced to choose between massive cuts in spending or large increases in taxes. Alan Tatum, who owns Payless Family Pharmacy in Sparta, said he was in favor of an alternative plan.
Ned McWherter, who was governor at this time, proposed a new plan called TennCare. That would cover hundreds of thousands of additional Tennesseans with health insurance for the approximate amount of money the state was already spending on TennCare. “I was in favor of TennCare when it first started,” said Tatum of MCO, Universal Healthcare, which now owes him an estimated $100,000 in back pay for his local pharmacy and one in Putnam County.
The financial picture of state funding in 1993 was almost a mirror image of the currently budget crisis. If legislators had cut Medicaid spending, the results would have been the loss of about two federal matching dollars for every state dollar cut. According to statistics from the Comptroller of the Treasurer of the State of Tennessee, massive cuts would have been made in Medicaid services.
With a state budget crisis a hotly debated topic by legislators, the TennCare dilemma has several local pharmacists concerned about the stability of the healthcare program that was originally designed to ensure health coverage to thousands of Tennesseans who otherwise could not afford health insurance or was not eligible because of pre-existing conditions.
Tatum, along with other medical professionals in White County, is concerned about the final outcome of financial of Universal.
“If I ran my business this way,” said Tatum, “I would have to close my doors. The state has not done their job monitoring Universal and the entire TennCare program.”
Tatum said drug companies expect payment every 10 days to two weeks and if the company does not receive payment, they will not ship additional supplies. “When Xantus went bankrupt, we lost over $40,000,” said Tatum. “We almost lost our business.
Tatum has received a partial payment of the $100,000 owed by Universal, but he said the period of March 15-April 11, 2002, is not guaranteed. “The state took over paying the claims,” said Tatum. “Universal is in violation of their contract.”
Tatum said smaller companies that want to participate as a provider apparently see millions of dollars and do not know how to manage the money. However, Tatum wanted to reassure his customers he and his staff would still be providing the same services. “We want to continue to take care of our customers,” he said. “We want to be here for the patients and provide them with their needs.”

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