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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Economy

Tom Jachman

Atlanta, GA

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Health Care Lessons Learned From TennCare

October 26, 2009 - 12:46 PM | by: Tom Jachman

In the National Debate over health care Reform and a Public Insurance Option, many critics are looking at Tennessee.  The Volunteer State passed a health care reform experiment of their own in 1994.  It’s called TennCare and it set out to insure the uninsured by expanding Medicare to cover people who can’t afford private insurance.

The plan succeeded in some ways.  The number of uninsured in Tennessee dramatically dropped and the number of people seeking basic care in Emergency Rooms plummeted.

But it wasn’t long before TennCare nearly bankrupted the state as the public health rolls ballooned along with government costs.  By 2005, almost a third of the state budget was being spent on public health.  Out of pocket payments for members were reduced, but doctors and hospitals shifted costs to privately insured customers.

We traveled to Nashville to talk to Vanderbilt University Professor Jim Blumstein and caught up with Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe in Washington, DC.  Blumstein helped Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen dramatically cut costs by revamping TennCare, while Rep. Roe gave us his perspective as a politician representing Tennessee and a physician who had to run his Johnson City practice under the TennCare system.

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