TennCare: A Cautionary Tale

Representatives Marsha Blackburn and Phil Roe have some good advice — and warnings — about healthcare reform from Tennessee’s experiment in universal coverage.  Some excerpts:

No matter how forthright the Administration’s cost estimates are; no model accounts for the rational decisions that push people to over-utilize the “free care” a public option offers. TennCare’s gold plated coverage included every doctor’s appointment and prescription. As such, patients with a cold opted to charge the state hundreds of dollars for doctor visits and medicine instead of paying $5 out of pocket for over-the-counter cold medicine. Over-use caused TennCare’s anticipated savings to evaporate and its cost to explode.


Government-run health care advocates must overpromise on benefits to gain support for their plan, only to renege on those promises when the bill comes due. It’s a classic bait-and-switch. To pay the TennCare bill, benefits were slashed and reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals were reduced. Ultimately, 170,000 people were cut from the program. Since they weren’t being paid; fewer physicians could afford to accept TennCare patients. So while a TennCare card guaranteed you access to care, it did not guarantee the availability of care.

I hope the healthcare reform advocates are listening, but I somehow doubt they are.

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