Local residents fear Governor Lee's block grant proposal could hurt TennCare coverage
Chattanoogans voiced their concerns over Governor Bill Lee's block grant proposal on Wednesday, a proposal that could affect TennCare.
About 65,000 Hamilton County residents rely on TennCare, along with more than a million in Tennessee.
Rosalie Howes and her 8-year-old son Hyrum were among those at Wednesday’s public meeting.
Hyrum suffered a stroke in utero and has lived with complications his entire life.
His medications are expensive.
Howes fears Governor Lee's block grant could cost their family everything.
"Hryum's life depends on TennCare,” Howes said.
Howes shared her son’s struggles with the health care system at the meeting.
When her family was on TennCare, they were able to afford Hyrum's medications and doctor appointments.
"Our mornings start at 5:00 a.m. doing breathing treatments and medications to get him going for the day,” Howes said. "He is on a combination of three seizure medications."
But when her husband graduated from school, the family lost coverage.
Without insurance, Hyrum's medicine costs more than $2000 a month.
"For him to get covered again, we could either divorce, institutionalize him, or we could move to a different state,” Howes said.
Fortunately, Tennessee passed the Katie Beckett Waiver, which gives disabled kids coverage.
When Howes read Lee's block grant proposal, those fears of losing coverage were real again.
"A lot of people look at Hyrum and see a little boy who can't walk or can't talk. But, he is so much more than that. His life matters and Governor Lee is acting like it doesn't,” Howes said.
Lee's block grant proposal works like this: the federal government would send the state $8 billion. Then Tennessee would have the ability to change the amount, duration, and scope of coverage without federal approval. That means it can change what's covered and how it's covered.
"The fact they are wanting to put a price, kind of a budget, on how much his medications are and his life saving supplies is sickening and infuriating,” Howes said.
Representative Yusuf Hakeem has concerns about the grant and believes all Tennesseans should have a say about health care.
"We don't want to take chances necessarily when it comes to the health of our citizens,” Hakeem said.
Governor Lee says this block grant won't cause those on TennCare to lose coverage and this is all a misunderstanding.
Howes hopes the governor follows through and doesn't leave her family without options.
"I never imagined I'd either have to send my husband away or send my child away, so that he can get the medications that sustain his life,” Howes said.
The public comment period for the proposal ends on October 18.
Hakeem says they won't vote it until the next legislative session.
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