High Cost Of Tennessee's State Program Under The Reform Microscope

TennCare, the plan enacted in the mid-1990s to cover the Tennessee's uninsured through a public insurance program which nearly bankrupted the state, is fueling national debate about a public option, The Wall Street Journal reports. "As originally envisioned, the Tennessee plan expanded Medicaid, the government health-care program for the poor, to cover people who couldn't afford insurance or who had been denied coverage by an insurance company. With an initial budget of $2.6 billion, TennCare quickly extended coverage to an additional 500,000 people. ... But the program became so expensive that Tennessee was forced to scale it back in 2005."

Opponents of the public plan cite Tennessee's budget hardships more often than the more recent Massachusetts reforms. But a difference in a national plan, "the administration says, is that a public option would increase competition in the health-insurance market by offering an alternative to private insurers; TennCare was the primary option for Tennessee's uninsured" (Johnson, 8/17).

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