Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A small group of activists rally against the Republican healthcare agenda outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017 in New York City.

A small group of activists rally against the Republican healthcare agenda outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Outrage as Tennessee Moves Forward With Trump-Favored Proposal to Slash Medicaid

The plan, if enacted, threatens to unleash a "radical change to the medical safety net for the nation's poorest citizens."

Andrea Germanos

A social justice advocacy group shot back on Tuesday after Tennessee unveiled a plan to switch the state's Medicaid program into a block grant program.

"A block grant is a Medicaid cut in disguise, and Tennessee should not be fooled," said the Tennessee Justice Center. 

The state released details of the proposal (pdf) Tuesday.

Any overhaul of TennCare would need the approval of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Trump administration—to the ire of healthcare and anti-poverty advocates—has been gunning for states to make such a switch. 

"If Tennessee garners federal approval on a policy to cut Medicaid funds—and survives the subsequent lawsuits it'd surely face—it would encourage other conservative states to do the same," reported Axios. "This would be a radical change to the medical safety net for the nation's poorest citizens."

As The Associated Press reported, "Currently, the federal government pays a percentage of each state's Medicaid costs, no matter how much they rise in any given year. For Tennessee, that means receiving approximately $7.5 billion in federal money for its $12.1 billion Medicaid program, or 65 percent."

CNN laid out how things could change for the state under the proposal: 

The proposal from Tennessee—which has not expanded Medicaid—doesn't follow the typical block-grant idea, which would offer a lump sum payment to a state. It's seeking to exclude expenses related to outpatient prescription drugs, home- and community-based long-term care, uncompensated care payments to hospitals and several other costs. These would continue to be funded under the current formula.

The block grant funding would rise if enrollment in Tennessee's program, called TennCare, increases in the future—addressing a major concern that the safety net couldn't expand in times of economic downturns. Plus, the annual increase in funding would be based on Congressional Budget Office projections for Medicaid growth, which is more generous than inflation.

Another provision: If the state spends less than the block grant amount, it gets to keep 50 percent of the federal share of those savings.

Though it may differ from a typical block grant plan, critics say there's still plenty of reason for concern.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute's Center for Children and Families (DCCF), outlined some of the concerns in a Twitter thread:

Edwin Park, a research professor with CCF, added his concerns:

Following reports in January that the Trump administration was moving to make it easier for states to switch to block grants for Medicaid,  Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, said that CMS had no authority to make those change—a point he reiterated on Wednesday. 

"This is illegal," tweeted Pallone, "and the Trump Administration does not have the authority to do this."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'We Need Fewer Guns in Schools, Not More': Teachers Reject GOP Call for Armed Educators

"Teachers should be teaching, not acting as armed security guards," the president of a leading teachers' union asserted in the wake of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Texas.

Brett Wilkins ·


Faith Leaders, Teachers Mobilize for Protests at NRA's Houston Meeting in Wake of Uvalde Massacre

"Don't look away," said one advocacy group. "Rally against the NRA."

Julia Conley ·


NY Appeals Court Rules Trump and Two of His Kids Must Testify in Financial Fraud Case

"Our investigation will continue undeterred because no one is above the law," said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Kenny Stancil ·


After Racist Massacre in Buffalo, Senate GOP Blocks Domestic Terrorism Bill

"There are a lot of MAGA Republicans for whom no amount of gun violence... will ever, ever convince them to take any action," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Jake Johnson ·


Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Entire Slate of Democratic Socialists in NY

"As AOC knows," DSA For the Many tweeted, "when we fight together, we win together!"

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo