The federal government is telling state officials that they need to get their act together on TennCare. In a firmly-worded letter, the director of the country’s Medicaid program says state officials have until Monday to fix accessibility issues.
Even though state officials were expecting a new wave of applicants with the federal health-care law, Tennessee no longer offers counselors to help enrollees sign-up for TennCare in person. In addition, the state is a year late in completing a $35 million system, which would allow people to enroll online.
Instead, Tennessee has directed Medicaid enrollees, who are mostly seniors, children and low-income people, to the healthcare.gov website.
In an interview with The Tennessean, TennCare Director Darin Gordon placed part of the blame on Northrop Grumman, the firm that won a contract to build the computer system. According to Gordon, the state has paid Northrop Grumman just $5 million of the $35 million contract, which was due to the state’s growing skepticism about Northrop Grummam.
Spokeswoman Liz Shrum told WPLN that the company remains committed to the program. “We continue to work in conjunction with our customer to implement this complex system.”
Michele Johnson, who leads the Tennessee Justice Center, which has been pushing the state to improve accessibility to TennCare, says the letter’s tone is worth noting.
“There’s no question there’s no in-person way to apply in Tennessee. there’s no computer system that enables people to come forward and enroll in coverage. And those two things make us unlike any other state in the nation.”
TennCare Spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said state officials disagree with numerous aspects of the letter. They are working on a response to federal officials.
Johnson related the letter form the federal officials to Bill Haslam waffling on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls.
“What we see in both the Medicaid expansion decision, and the issues laid out in that letter, comes down to management,” Johnson said. “They come down to being distracted by politics, as opposed to running a good government.”
A Haslam spokeswoman would not comment.