Many wait for TennCare ruling to be resolved

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   The tug of war between the U.S. District Court and the state of Tennessee over the constitutionality of TennCare's reverification program has left many wondering about the status of their health coverage.
   Last week, a federal appeals court panel handed down a ruling which will keep thousands of enrollees ousted from the program until Jan. 8. The decision was in response to an appeal from the state of Tennessee on a U.S. District Court judge's ruling that the TennCare reverification process is unconstitutional.
   Most state political figures, health care providers, and state employees agree the health care system needs some reform, but the manner in which the reform is carried out could be curtailed in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the issue makes its way through the appeals process, those who have been helping to carry out the reverification process since July 1, 2002, are left in limbo.
   The Carter County Department of Human Services, (DHS), has been moving local TennCare enrollees through the reverification process. The local DHS has been waiting since the district court ruling was handed down December to learn what it must do next.
   "All I can tell you is that everything is coming from the state, from big TennCare, not the local Department of Human Services," Jack Hensley, Area Manager of the Carter County Department Human Services said. "We are just waiting for the state to tell us what we need to do at this point."
   Since July 1, Hensley has overseen the reverification of thousands of Carter Countians who are on TennCare. Workers at the local DHS office worked to make sure those receiving the state's health insurance met the new guidelines referred to as the new TennCare standard.
   Hensley said his office has not had a large number of people calling to find out about the status of their TennCare.
   "We have not had a lot of calls from people because the letters are being sent out. The only information that we have received is that everybody will be getting a letter in the mail from TennCare," Hensley said.
   The local DHS worker added that his office is prepared to help the people of Carter County in any way it can.
   Although the TennCare appeals have left the health care system's reform in an uncertain state, Gov. Don Sundquist has voiced some relief that the federal appeals court issued the temporary stay. The stay will allow the new TennCare standard to continue to be implemented on a temporary basis.
   The new standard, which called for the reverification of all TennCare enrollees was adopted by the Sundquist and Bush administrations, as well as the Tennessee General Assembly last summer.
   "We are pleased that the Sixth Circuit has granted an emergency stay and look forward to an objective review of the case," Sundquist said. "We are hopeful the stay will be made permanent and that ultimately, the state's appeal will be successful."