During this holiday season, it’s a busy time of year at the Capitol.
We kicked off the month with the annual lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree, and throughout the month, the Tennessee Residence has come to life as more than 5,000 Tennesseans participated in Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays and enjoyed the decorations celebrating “Tennessee Landscapes.”
This is also the time of year that we begin to put the state’s budget together. This month we held budget hearings where each state agency presented its requests for cost increases along with plans for potential reductions. Our goal is to provide Tennessee taxpayers the best possible service at the lowest possible cost, and we’ll be presenting the budget early in 2015.
Tennessee is making historic gains in academic achievement. We’re asking more from our teachers and students than ever before, and we want to make sure we’re supporting educators in meaningful ways and giving them the tools they need to lead their classrooms, schools and districts. With that in mind and in responding to direct feedback I’ve received from educators across the state, earlier this month I announced several key initiatives aimed at supporting our teachers. Click here to learn more.
Finally, last week I introduced “Insure Tennessee,” a market-based, Tennessee specific approach to provide more Tennesseans with access to health care coverage while promoting personal responsibility and working to control the overall cost of health care.
Insure Tennessee rewards healthy behaviors, promotes personal responsibility and incentivizes choosing preventative and routine care instead of unnecessary use of emergency rooms. I truly believe it can be a catalyst to fundamentally changing health care in Tennessee and even open the door for future innovation within our existing Medicaid program.
Insure Tennessee offers several options of coverage for individuals below 138 percent of poverty ($16,100 for an individual and $27,300 for a family of three). You can learn more about the plans by clicking here.
The program will not create any new taxes for Tennesseans and will not add any state cost to the state budget. The Tennessee Hospital Association has committed that the industry will cover any additional cost to the state, and the program will automatically terminate in the event that either federal funding or support from the hospitals is modified in any way.
The truth of the matter is, Tennesseans are already paying taxes to the federal government, and the money is going to other states. This plan allows us to leverage those dollars in Tennessee, but in a way that will introduce market principles to the program and require enrollees to take responsibility for their health. This program is also tied to payment reform, our initiative to change the way we pay providers from a fee-for-service, volume driven structure to an outcomes and value based approach.
We have received verbal approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the plan, and the next steps are for the state to submit a waiver to HHS and for us to take the proposal to the legislature for consideration. I look forward to working with providers across the state to advance payment reform and with members of the General Assembly to make this plan a reality. This is a Tennessee solution that addresses significant concerns that the national law did not and will put our state on a better path going forward.
As 2014 comes to a close and we look to the beginning of a second term, I want to thank you for your support and encouragement over the past four years. Crissy and I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and happy New Year and look forward to continuing to serve in 2015.