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Health Care News NewsTracker

Not So Much ‘Knee-Jerk Hostility’ Toward Medical Marijuana This Year, Proponents Say

A state House of Representatives legislative panel took a first step Tuesday toward allowing Tennessee patients suffering serious health ailments to legally use medical marijuana with a doctor’s permission.

The Health and Human Services subcommittee OK’d the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act” on a voice vote, advancing the measure to the full committee — meaning it still has a long way to go before becoming law.

Nevertheless, advocates of marijuana as medicine for treating chronic pain or helping alleviate debilitating disease symptoms or disease-treatment side effects say they’re hopeful politicians in the Tennessee Statehouse are willing to at least give the issue a more sympathetic hearing than in the past.

“What we didn’t get today was the sort of knee-jerk hostility or dismissing of the concept,” said Bernie Ellis, a long-time medical marijuana activist. “I think we are really progressing in elevating the dialogue on this bill, and believe me, in our shoes, any movement forward is positive movement.”

Legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use typically burns out in committee, although in 2010, a full committee agreed to a study of the issue.

Rep. Jeanne Richardson, a Memphis Democrat, is sponsoring the bill, HB294, in the House and plans to try to move it through the Health and Human Resources committee. The measure hasn’t budged in the Senate.

Rep. Joey Hensely, a physician, told the committee he was concerned doctors won’t know how to prescribe medicinal marijuana.

“Being a provider, we’re not really trained to prescribe cannabis, and don’t really know what it does, how much people need, how much they need for what condition, and there’s a lot of different conditions in this amendment and even a catch-all of chronic pain and any other condition that a provider thinks somebody needs it for,” said Hensely, R-Hohenwald. “Anything that could help patients is something that most providers would want to do, but this has so many question marks that I just can’t support it like it is.”

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Press Releases

Stimulus Money Coming for Electronic Medical Record-Keeping

Press Releases from the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jan. 4, 2010:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have announced that Tennessee will receive federal matching funds for state planning activities necessary to implement the electronic health record incentive program established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tennessee will receive approximately $2.7 million in federal matching funds:

TENNESSEE TO RECEIVE FEDERAL MATCHING FUNDS FOR ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD INCENTIVES PROGRAM — Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

In another key step to further states’ role in developing a robust U.S. health information technology (HIT) infrastructure, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced today that Tennessee’s Medicaid program will receive federal matching funds for state planning activities necessary to implement the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). Tennessee will receive approximately $2.7 million in federal matching funds.

EHRs will improve the quality of health care for the citizens of Tennessee and make their care more efficient. The records make it easier for the many providers who may be treating a Medicaid patient to coordinate care. Additionally, EHRs make it easier for patients to access the information they need to make decisions about their health care.

The Recovery Act provides a 90 percent federal match for state planning activities to administer the incentive payments to Medicaid providers, to ensure their proper payments through audits and to participate in statewide efforts to promote interoperability and meaningful use of EHR technology statewide and, eventually, across the nation.

“We congratulate Tennessee for qualifying for these federal matching funds to assist its plan for implementing the Recovery Act’s EHR incentive program,” said Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at CMS. “Meaningful and interoperable use of EHRs in Medicaid will increase health care efficiency, reduce medical errors and improve quality-outcomes and patient satisfaction within and across the states.”

Tennessee will use its federal matching funds for planning activities that include conducting a comprehensive analysis to determine the current status of HIT activities in the state. As part of that process, Tennessee will gather information on issues such as existing barriers to its use of EHRs, provider eligibility for EHR incentive payments and the creation of a State Medicaid HIT Plan, which will define the state’s vision for its long-term HIT use.

Additional information on implementation of the Medicaid-related provisions of the Recovery Act’s EHR incentive payment program may be found (HERE).