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Governor Praises TN's Medicaid System In State of State Address

The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. Gov. Bill Lee's second State of the State address focused on education, teacher pay and job creation. (Adobe Stock)
The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. Gov. Bill Lee's second State of the State address focused on education, teacher pay and job creation. (Adobe Stock)
February 4, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Gov. Bill Lee addressed the 111th Tennessee General Assembly yesterday evening in a State of the State speech that focused primarily on education, while complimenting the state's Medicaid system as the most efficient in the country.

But some health care experts said they disagree with that assessment. Kinika Young, director of children's health at the Tennessee Justice Center, said the governor still refuses to expand health care access.

"We hope that the state will now see that the best way to address all of the health care crises that the state is facing is to expand Medicaid," Young said.

In his address, Lee also noted plans to increase funding for rural health clinics and expand access to dental care. He also pledged to expand the state's Department of Mental Health outreach services from 36 counties to all 95 counties.

While she acknowledged that improving rural health services is critical, Young pointed out that the state's refusal to expand Medicaid has increased the number of uninsured children and worsened maternal mortality rates.

"The maternal mortality review committee had recommended expanding postpartum coverage up to a full year from the current 60 days that Tenncare provides," she said. "Taking up the recommendations and expanding on them is something that we hope this governor will prioritize."

In 2019, Tennessee became the first state in the country to apply for a Medicaid block grant, which would give the state more leeway in how federal health care dollars are spent.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - TN