McNally blocks Senate vote on Harwell’s work-for-Medicaid bill

House Speaker Beth Harwell was caught “completely off guard” Thursday when Senate Speaker Randy McNally stopped a scheduled floor vote on her House-approved bill that imposes work requirements on some able-bodied adult Medicaid enrollees, reports the Times Free Press.

Harwell, who is running for governor, defended the legislation, saying it has “84 percent popularity, people want to see this work requirement. It’s a work requirement that we put on welfare recipients — we did that back when Bill Clinton allowed us to have that flexibility. Trump is giving us this flex with TennCare.”

She added: “I still firmly believe that able-bodied people should either volunteer, go back to school or work, one of those three things.”

McNally later told reporters that he generally favors the concept but had questions about the legislation after speaking with state and federal officials while in Washington this week.

Mary Graham, president of United Ways of Tennessee, said the organization and others who oppose the Medicaid work-requirement bill are “grateful to Senate leaders for pushing the pause button” on the legislation.

“We urge our senators to get answers to the many unanswered questions about the bill’s true cost to taxpayers financially, as well as the potential negative impact on Tennesseans and our communities,” Graham said in a statement. “We encourage our Senate to look at who the bill would affect, as well as its unintended harm to vulnerable children, seniors and people with disabilities.”

…”I just wanted to check with the [Trump] administration and see if implementation of that bill is lined up and goes smoothly,” McNally said. “And I, unfortunately, haven’t had a chance to talk to them about it.”

Further from WPLN:

“If you poll that issue, I think that most people agree that able-bodied people … ought to have a work requirement or a school requirement,” he (McNally) says. “But if you poll it with the cost, I think you might get some different answers.”

Budgeters estimate it would cost the state nearly $45 million to monitor a work requirement. That works out to more than $10,000 for every person the program will discover should be working but hasn’t been.

That’s because TennCare already bars most able-bodied adults. Only those who can show they’re caring for someone else — like a child or a disabled relative — are allowed to enroll.

The work requirement would likely cost far more than it would save the state. Budgeters estimate a nearly $19 million net annual loss. So lawmakers propose raiding another safety-net program, cash-assistance to needy families, to pay for it.

13 Responses to McNally blocks Senate vote on Harwell’s work-for-Medicaid bill

  • Lance Persson says:

    I would sure like to know how they came up with their statement that the cost of this program would be “more than $10,000 for every person the program will discover should be working but hasn’t been.” That sounds totally absurd. PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW THEY CAME UP WITH THIS COST!

  • Susan Wall says:

    I agree with Mr. Persson. How in the world could McNally not be 100% behind this “Work for Medicaid” Bill.
    What about common sense?

  • John Stewart says:

    The reason this bill cost so much to accomplish so little is obvious. It is the essence of Common Sense. There are only a few thousand persons, out of the 1.2 million TennCare recipients, who would qualify. An enormous bureaucratic process would be needed to locate these persons and to exclude others who would not qualify. TennCare has no operational computer system to help in this job. Thus the costs are huge for the benefits-received. Common

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    Welfare cheating is a growth industry in the USA and it fosters an atmosphere of lawlessness in the country. First there is a simply matter of right vs. wrong. Able bodied people should be doing something productive rather than simply being layabouts living off the taxpayers. There should be laws against that sort of thing and there should be penalties stiff enough to discourage violators. These laws should then be enforced, PERIOD. How much it costs to enforce laws is irrelevant. By all means, let’s not have one more law than we need and let’s enforce laws as efficiently as possible, but after that, the cost of enforcing laws is simply part of the cost of having a civilized society.

  • William Upton says:

    Sounds like a typical lame ass government excuse for not doing something that makes sense.

  • John G. Stewart says:

    Someone needs to explain this to me a little more clearly. How does forcing a stay-at-home mom who is looking after her disabled or chronically ill eight-year to find a job that almost certainly will pay her less than the person she hires to look after her child is in anyone’s interest. Certainly not the child’s. And certainly not the mom’s. 98% of TennCare recipients are children, the elderly (many of whom are in nursing homes), the disabled, or are already working. Then explain to me how hitting Tennessee taxpayers an estimated $36 million/year to find this handful, literally a handful, of persons who can and should be working makes a grain of sense. Especially when Tennessee’s TennCare computer system is in a non-operational shambles. Harwell’s and Roberts’ work requirement proposals is good politics in TN, as the previous comments to Tom Humphrey’s column illustrate. But the proposal makes no operational sense whatsoever to the dozens of health and social service groups, like the AARP and the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. that oppose it. If civilized society is the norm we should follow, and we should, then killing this mean-spirited, misguided, and ill-conceived proposal is a no-brainer.

    • Kerry Roberts says:

      It doesn’t apply to a caregiver or anyone with disabilities. Anything TennCare negotiates with CMS has to meet CMS policy guidance which was given in their January 11, 2018, letter to State Medicaid directors. All of this hysteria could be very easily avoided by simply reading that letter. The point of the bill is to tell TennCare to respond to that letter. If you try to write the policy in the bill, which we are not trying to do, the bill would be hundreds of pages because it would have to reference all of the federal statutes, regulations, policies, etc.

      • Kerry Roberts says:

        And there is no fiscal note of 39 million. That was removed after the bill was amended. Since the work and community engagement requirements are to align with TANF and SNAP requirements, it’s likely that savings will outweigh the costs.

  • Susan E Gingrich says:

    TN should do a better job identifying, eliminating fraud and abuse and recovering payments made in error in all federally funded programs, including disability. Lack of accountability and real oversight is obvious.

  • Tommy Ray McAnally says:

    Harwell why don’t you do something about the illegals getting free medical free food stamps,,free housing. Why aren’t the illegals on the bus going back to where the came from? By the way the illegals continue to cost the tax payers money every day they are here.

  • billhennessee says:

    Undocimented aliens do NOT get SNAP(Fod stamps) nor are they getting TennCare. Facts not Faux news.

  • Tommy Ray McAnally says:

    Just a question for Beth Harwell- If Beth Harwell and Tommy Ray McAnally are tied in votes for the Governors Seat and David Byrd holds the winning vote would Beth Harwell accept David Byrd’s vote for the win? Hmmmmm. Also the layoff Metro Nashville is considering why are they letting 38 people go that need jobs, why not get rid of 4 or 5 six figure people that want be missed at all,just give their secretary raise and they will never be missed look at the savings those six people ain’t doing anything anyway. Come on Briley do it, this should get you re-elected. Also, is dishonest and crooked the same, just asking.

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