Lee administration gives first look at findings from health care meetings

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter has written an op-ed for The Tennessean about what he has found out during a series of closed-door meetings about the state health care in the state. Details of Gov. Bill Lee’s health care modernization task force are expected to be released later this week.

The placement of the op-ed is curious given that the paper’s own news staff was thwarted in its efforts to cover the meetings.

McWhorter said the meetings involved the heads of eight state agencies and private sector experts to “explore improving rural health, reducing chronic conditions, improving transparency and helping to foster innovation.” The discussions are apparently separate from the Medicaid block grant proposal that was panned in a series of public hearings last week.

McWhorter warned that there’s “no silver bullet,” but gave this summary of what was found:

  • First, we heard that transportation is a significant barrier to care. Lack of transportation keeps some Tennesseans from having access to a primary care physician or out-patient services. This inevitably leads to medical problems becoming unmanageable, requiring emergency transportation and services for conditions that could have been managed better.
  • Second, technology, including telehealth, is an underutilized tool in addressing access issues, especially in rural areas of our state. This technology is already having significant positive impacts for other industries. For example, telehealth has enabled schools and law enforcement to provide health care and better manage behavioral health issues which resulted in fewer school absences and reduced jail time.
  • Third, rural areas are hit harder by these issues than other parts of the state, specifically in regard to lack of providers. Tennessee, not unlike other states, continually struggles to attract providers, which can lead to hospital and physician practice closures and, subsequently, a lack of available care within reasonable proximity to Tennesseans.
  • Fourth, addressing social determinants of health could help foster healthier generations. Such efforts can aid in reducing costs, particularly for consumers during a national transition from fee-for-service to value-based care, but also for taxpayers as some costly medical services are preventable by introducing basic lifestyle changes.
  • The fifth and final theme touched on the market challenges related to medical billing. This issue is complex and includes some of the largest facets of our health care system. There is no quick solution for this issue, but it is one our state will need to have a detailed conversation about in the months and years ahead.

5 Responses to Lee administration gives first look at findings from health care meetings

  • Helen G Lewis says:

    In reality, how many more death has occurred, where hospital closed……If you look at the statics of hospitals, you will know that hospital care is not the answer…..It is not true where that is life there is HOPE…..I saw a friend, who weighs 350-400 pounds….and ask myself seriously, what could hospital do for them…..It is time for people to be honest….and if the FDA approves it…it does not mean it safe….

  • Lenny says:

    Telephone doctors is number 2? Telephone doctors are great for keeping anti-vaxers out of real health care facilities. Other than that, I see no benefit in telephone doctors.

    • Chris Foell says:

      I think what they mean is telemedicine, in which you talk to doctors via the internet. It has a better impact in urban areas where there is ample broadband; our lack of affordable rural broadband makes it worthless for most people here.

  • Amanda says:

    Improving transparency through closed-door meetings…cool. Cool, cool.

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