Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd August 26, 2020

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Health

   Budget – The 2020-2021 budget increased funding for health care, with highlights including:

•An additional $9.2 million in non-recurring funds for the adult health care safety net and $3 million in recurring funds;

•A combined $26.5 million to strengthen the safety network for both mental health and health care services;

•Approximately $19 million to support the health care network, $7.5 million to support the children’s behavioral and mental health services, and $3 million to expand the School Based Behavioral Liaisons across the state;

•Fully funds inflationary growth in TennCare; and

•An additional $1 million invested in the Rural Hospital Transformation program so rural health facilities can continue to evaluate their business models in efforts to ensure they effectively operate and address health needs that arise under these extraordinary circumstances.

   In addition, the budget adopted by the General Assembly in March provided $150 million to establish a new fund to cover public health and safety issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This includes $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19.

   Legislation helps hospitals providing “sliding scale” charity care – A new law, Public Chapter 1888, was enacted during the 2020 legislative session to create parity for hospitals providing charity care to patients on a sliding scale. The measure redefines charity care to align it with Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations so hospitals with sliding scale policies are fully recognized when calculating supplemental payments. Sliding scale charity care discounts help limit financial exposure for lower income individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.  

   State law requires hospitals to have in place and publicly post a charity care policy and to report their uncompensated care to the Department of Health. These amounts are used to calculate supplemental payments from CMS to offset the cost of uncompensated care and for justifying incentive payments for hospitals with high volumes of charity care. The legislation is supported by the Tennessee Hospital Association.

   New law helps rural health clinics recruit doctors – The General Assembly enacted legislation, Public Chapter 574, allowing rural health clinics to employ a physician, a move that will help many Tennessee counties.  Previously, state law prevented corporations from employing doctors due to a ban on the corporate practice of medicine with certain exceptions for hospitals, nursing homes, and federally qualified health centers. The measure was passed to aid efforts to recruit doctors to work in Tennessee’s rural health clinics and in economically distressed communities. 

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov.