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The Storm Clouds Build

December 30, 2009

Picture by Average Jane via Flickr In an earlier post I talked about the coming budget problems likely facing the Metro Nashville General Hospital in the coming year. Today the Tennessee Justice Center received notification of the proposed changes to TennCare for next year as per a court order requiring the state to provide information in advance of changes in policy. These proposals have generally been approved by state regulators in the past, and it is believed that this amendment (#9) to the Tenncare Program will likewise pass.

The letter from Darin Gordon, Director of the Bureau of TennCare, lists the following changes to TennCare coverage:

  • A $2 co-pay on non-emergency transportation.
  • An annual limit of $10,000 for inpatient hospital and psychiatric services.
  • An annual limit of 8 non-emergency visits to outpatient hospitals.
  • An annual limit of 8 visits to a physician’s office visits.
  • An annual limit of 8 “occasions” of lab and X-Ray service.
  • The elimination of coverage for occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy.
  • The elimination of hospice care services.

What does this mean? It means that if you are a person struggling in the world (which is why you have TennCare coverage in the first place) you can’t have any expectation that there is a safety net to cover the cost catastrophic illness, for the limits above basically cover just a few days of normal hospital costs. For that matter, you probably can’t have much of an ongoing illness that you aren’t willing to pay for on your own for you will quickly exceed the 8 visit limit. If you have a stroke or some sort of debilitating injury, you are pretty much on your own in terms of getting better because your “insurance” won’t help. And, worse of all, it you are on your death bed, you will have limited access to the services that will allow you to die with dignity and a minimum of suffering.

Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Do we REALLY think this is how we would like to be treated if we were ill?

The accountants are still running the numbers, but what this means locally is a loss of some $8.7 million dollars in revenue for our public safety net hospital, Metro General in 2011.  For an institution that is already underfunded for it’s mission by $1.5 million dollars, this put this institution on the rocks.

Add that to today’s story about the unfunded retirement benefits for metro workers at $2.6 billion, and is it any wonder why Nashvillians aren’t sure that we can handle something that on the surface seems like a luxury – the Music City Center?

The stock answer from the mayor’s office seems to be “We’ll have to look into that…”

Guys, the amount of things that you are going to have to look at it getting bigger and it’s about time we get some answers as to what our city is going to have to do to provide services to those in need.

Picture by Average Jane via Flickr

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