Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tennessee's Public Health Plan Failure

Given the experiment Tennessee attempted in putting forth a public plan for Medicaid in the mid 1990's one would think that Congress might consider learning from history but the only mention in the media I have seen is at CNSNews.com ;

Tennessee’s Troubled ‘Public Option’ – TennCare – Could Foreshadow
Obama’s Health Care Plan

Monday, July 20, 2009 By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

(CNSNews.com) – A government-run health insurance plan is
enacted on the promise of increasing competition and bringing down costs, but
over the years, as more people leave their private insurance to take the “public
option,” the cost to operate the government plan skyrockets. Various
litigation ensues, preventing the government’s attempt to reform or cut
benefits. Eventually, dramatic cuts become necessary. This is not a
hypothetical scenario sketched by opponents of the health care overhaul plans
working their way through Congress. Rather, it is the case of what happened with
a state plan in Tennessee.
Tennessee is in the process of cutting about
150,000 people from the TennCare program after a reevaluation of enrollee
eligibility to participate in the state-run insurance program. TennCare,
the managed care Medicaid program that began in 1994, now serves about 1.2
million people in the state and has a $7 billion budget. That’s after cuts were
made. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was a Tennessee state senator through
much of the TennCare problems and believes it is a forecast of what would happen
under federal health care “public option” plan. While supporters of the
Tennessee program said it would save money, it wound up eating 38 percent of the state’s budget, she said. “As a result of this, insurance rates for those
who have private coverage were going through the roof,” Blackburn told a
gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation last week.

The full text is here and there is a followup piece today here. My favorite exchange is below;

“I don’t know the degree to which folks here have looked at TennCare or other [state] plans,” Gibbs told CNSNews.com. “I would note that the House bill fully funds additional benefits passed through its legislation on Medicaid. And as you know -- and as others have pointed out during the briefing -- the jurisdiction for that in the Senate is the Finance Committee. They have not yet acted. So I think the fears expressed by the governors, certainly as it relates to the House bill, are unfounded.”Gibbs said it “would be a bit out of my policy depth” to say how similar the public option favored by the president is to TennCare. However, he said that the president has stressed that his plan would be deficit-neutral.

But Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was a state legislator through many of TennCare’s problems and said more people should take a closer look at the state’s problems. Blackburn asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in June to explain what lessons the administration has learned from Tennessee’s experiment with the public option. Sebelius gave a short response last Friday. “We have learned many lessons from the TennCare experience and recognize its goals, but TennCare is not a traditional public option,” Sebelius said.

Blackburn called the statement inadequate. “All the talk has been theoretical – ‘If we do this, it will save money,’” Blackburn told CNSNews.com. “Show me an example where the government delivered care cost less. Every example, the government delivery, it has led to rationing and delays to access. In many cases, health care delayed is health care denied. It is unconscionable not to talk about the lessons learned from the TennCare experience.”

Representative Blackburn is 100% correct. The endgame here is control.