Skip to Main Content
01.11.2021 / Press Release

Statement: Governor Lee of Tennessee putting Politics in Front of the Health of Tennessee Families During COVID-19 Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Families USA released the following statement on CMS’ approval allowing Tennessee to block grant its Medicaid program.

In 2019, Tennessee released a proposal to block grant its Medicaid program that would result in serious harm to women, children, and elderly Tennesseans. Because the proposal faced numerous and significant legal hurdles, CMS has spent the last year quietly trying to find a way to let Tennessee block grant its program and justify its action. CMS is on weak legal ground—and the proposal itself will hurt Tennessee families in the midst of a historic health and economic crisis–so state and federal officials snuck this approval in during the final days of a lame duck administration.

The impact of this decision will be devastating for Tennessee families who rely on Medicaid for their health. It will force the state to either decrease spending, make cuts, or use its own funds to make up the difference—even as demand for the program grows. This means serving fewer people and offering fewer services, the last thing families struggling during COVID-19 need. States like Tennessee receiving greater “flexibility” in exchange for accepting less federal money follows a predictable playbook—the primary “flexibility” desired is the authority to roll back access to care without federal oversight. It’s a risky financial gambit that will leave vulnerable people at risk during one of the country’s worst health and economic crises.

“It is so deeply disappointing to watch Governor Lee put politics in front of the needs of Tennessee families. He is placing at risk hundreds of millions of dollars to support Tennessee health care by agreeing to this terrible block grant proposal. Instead, Governor Lee should be expanding Medicaid to improve health care for families across the state. This is a terrible deal for the state and the people of Tennessee, and everyone knows it — no other governor around the nation is willing to do this,” said Frederick Isasi, Executive Director of Families USA. “We hope that President Biden and his leadership will review and immediately revoke authority for this last-minute effort by President Trump and Governor Lee to destroy federal support for health care for Tennessee families.”

Families USA strongly urges Tennessee to put its families first and ensure they can access the best health and health care. The state should accept enhanced 90% federal funding to expand Medicaid to 391,000 individuals, including many who became uninsured due to the pandemic, instead of a fiscally and socially irresponsible block grant approach.