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VU’s Center for Medicine, Health and Society hosts TennCare roundtable

Oct. 27, 2005, 6:02 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Recent changes to TennCare, a program launched in 1994 to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured and uninsurable Tennesseans, will be discussed Nov. 1 during a public forum at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dave Goetz, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, will join Vanderbilt experts in health policy, medicine, nursing and biomedical ethics for the panel discussion, to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in room 208 of the medical center’s Light Hall.

Sponsored by the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health and Society, the panel will assess the design and implementation of changes aimed at controlling the rapid growth of the TennCare budget. In the fiscal year that ended last June 30, the program covered 1.3 million people, about 23 percent of the state’s population. The cost came to nearly $8.7 billion, a third of the total state budget.

TennCare reform has been vigorously debated since it was proposed by Gov. Phil Bredesen in early 2004. Implementation of the reform measures began Aug. 1. They include cutting enrollment by about 190,000 adults (a 14 percent drop in total enrollment), limiting pharmacy benefits for some adults and eliminating coverage of certain other services and products. Some reform proposals are still being considered by the courts and by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Matthew Ramsey, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt, said the panel discussion will contribute to the statewide dialogue about the future of TennCare, which has had a profound impact on health care delivery in Tennessee.

“Our aim in sponsoring this gathering is to help shift the discussion from the familiar debates over a decision that has already been made, to a realistic assessment of the actual impact on patients,” Ramsey said. “The longer-term goal is to encourage consideration of new approaches to meeting the health care needs of underserved populations in Tennessee.”

The Vanderbilt panelists are:

James F. Blumstein, University Professor of Constitutional Law and Health Law and Policy and director of the Center for Health Policy, Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies;

Dr. Robert F. Miller, assistant professor of clinical medicine and medical director of the Shade Tree Family Clinic, a free clinic in East Nashville run by Vanderbilt medical students;

Joshua E. Perry, research fellow in the Vanderbilt Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society; and

Bonnie Pilon, professor of nursing and senior associate dean for practice in the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

For more information, contact Adam Morgan at the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at 936-3597 or email

Media contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS

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