Special Session on Insure Tennessee Begins

At 5:45 p.m. CST on February 2, the Tennessee State Senate and House will convene in a joint session to open the state’s 58th Extraordinary Session, the first since 2010.

The session, called by Governor Bill Haslam, will be used to discuss the Governor’s hotly debated ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan. Haslam has explained that, if approved, the plan would not expand the Affordable Care Act, but would instead offer affordable healthcare to more than 280,000 Tennesseans with no additional cost to the state. The impact would give assistance to those living up to 138% of the federal poverty line and would have the most dramatic effect on rural areas where hospitals and medical facilities are struggling to remain open.

Insure Tennessee would create a two-pronged system, including a “Healthy Incentive Plan” for those living in the 100%-138% poverty range. In the provisions of the plan, insured citizens would still pay co-pays and premiums, but would receive savings for making healthy choices or taking disease-preventing measures.

During the session, some legislators to watch include Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Representative Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) in the House and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) in the Senate. Durham has been outspoken against the proposed legislation in the House, while Speaker Harwell has not yet made her position clear. Her support could make or break the legislation in the House.

Sen. Overbey, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed to sponsor the Governor’s legislation in the Senate and has stressed the financial benefits to supporting the plan. Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s position on the plan will also be instrumental in the Senate as the Extraordinary Session begins.

Passage of the plan would provide a greater level of financial security and predictability for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Clinical Practice Plans, which provide needed operational revenue for UTHSC.

109th Tennessee General Assembly Begins

capitol angleState lawmakers convened on Tuesday for the first day of the 109th General Assembly.  The Oath of Office was administered to members and they officially elected leadership.

As anticipated, House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) was re-elected, as was Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville).

The first week of the legislature’s work is largely organizational:  They’ll elect the Constitutional Officers, the Fiscal Review Committee, undergo mandatory ethics training, and complete a community service project.

On Saturday, the first official “legislative” day,  legislators will meet in Joint Convention for the Inauguration of Governor Bill Haslam.  They will also adopt the official schedule for each House and appoint standing committees.

Lawmakers will then recess until Monday, February 2, when they return for a special session called by the Governor on his “Insure Tennessee” plan.

“Insure Tennessee” is a proposed two-year pilot program to provide health care coverage to Tennesseans who do not currently have access to health insurance or have limited options.  The plan would provide coverage to more than 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, valued at slightly over $16,000 a year for an individual and $27,000 for a family of three.

The plan does not create any new taxes nor adds any state cost to the budget.  The hospital industry has committed that it will cover any additional cost to the state, and the program will automatically terminate in the event that either federal funding or support from the hospitals is modified.

Check back soon for more information and to view the committee assignments for the 109th General Assembly.

House Speaker Beth Harwell To Tour UT Martin Parsons Center

Harwell_MediaTennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) will make her first visit to the UT Martin Parsons Center at 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 2. A tour of the new West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation Nursing Wing that will open in August is the focus of her visit to the center. The expansion will house the university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Joining Harwell will be Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), who represents Decatur County and also serves as deputy speaker.

Initial funding for the expansion was included in the 2013-14 budget proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.  A $1 million appropriation was made to build a 10,000-square-foot addition to the current facility. The addition includes classrooms, a skills laboratory and a high-fidelity computerized simulation laboratory.

The expansion plans received an added boost when the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation also made a $1 million commitment to the project.

“I am looking forward to seeing this new addition to the University of Tennessee at Martin in Parsons,” Harwell said about her upcoming visit. “This nursing program works with health-care facilities across the state to provide experience for its students. Their commitment to excellence means enrollment is expected to hit its highest mark next year, and I am excited to tour the facility and meet the people who make the program a success day in and day out.”

The Parsons Center will have openings for up to 30 students annually for the program. BSN program graduates will be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses and obtain licensure as registered nurses.

Nursing students at Parsons will receive the same experience as those students enrolled at the Martin campus. The program works with health-care facilities across the region to provide three years of clinical experience for its students. Similar programs at other institutions offer only two years of clinical experience.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the expansion is planned for August.

2014 Legislative Outcomes

The 108th General Assembly of Tennessee wrapped up its 2014 business last week despite significant controversy and tension over taxes, budgets, and education.  As in years past, the legislature produced just under 3,000 bills for consideration and an additional 2,499 resolutions.  Due to the sheer scope of the University of Tennessee System, over 600 bills were tracked with either direct or indirect impacts.

So, where does that leave us for 2014?  A summary of legislative outcomes, created for UT Advocates, is below.


UTHSC: A Proud Partner of the Governor’s Public Safety Task Force

Yesterday, the University of Tennessee joined hundreds of law enforcement and health professionals from across the state at the first ever statewide public safety forum. Joining Governor Haslam were Commissioners Dreyzehner (TN Department of Health), Gibbons (TN Department of Safety & Homeland Security), Varney (TN Department of Mental Health), Schofield (TN Department of Correction), and Hagerty (TN Department of Economic and Community Development) to present an update on the Governor’s Public Safety Action Plan. The Public Safety Action Plan is designed to have significant and measureable impacts on crime in Tennessee. The three key initiatives of the plan include reducing drug abuse and trafficking, reducing violent crime and reducing the number of repeat offenders.

The goal related to reducing drug abuse and trafficking contains specific actions relative to the Univeristy of Tennessee Health Science Center: Teaching medical and pharmacy students about prescription drug abuse, the prescription database system, and the laws in Tennessee that govern prescribers and dispensers.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is a proud partner in working with the Governor’s Public Safety Task Force to curb prescription drug abuse, a major concern for the Haslam administration.

Click on the video below to watch the Governor’s preview of the forum.