Some Tennessee budget cuts will come from TennCare

(WVLT) -- Gov. Phil Bredesen says deep cuts are needed to dig the state from a $500 million hole, and it looks like some of those cuts will come from TennCare.

The Governor proposes cutting $80 million from TennCare, and that has some still questioning how and who it will affect.

TennCare says those enrolled won't be cut and neither will their benefits.

The money will affect the healthcare program's ability to expand who it covers.

TennCare planned to enroll 100,000 more individuals under it's medically needy-, or spend down program. That program will still expand, but now only to 20,000.

Ashley Lemmer's sick and seeking care.

"There's no doctor here today. So I can't be seen."

The 20-year-old's uninsured. She's one of the 150 weekly visitors to Knoxville's Free Medical Clinic of America. But because she doesn't work, she's not eligible for the free care.

"It's crummy. There's basically no place else I can go."

More Tennesseans may have a harder time getting healthcare. Governer Phil Bredesen proposed cutting 80 million dollars from the state's medicaid program, TennCare.

Marilyn Wilson with TennCare says, "People who are on TennCare will not see a change in their coverage or in the benefits. There'll be no actual cuts to TennCare services or enrollment."

But the cut does mean TennCare won't add 100-thousand needy individuals it'd planned.

Wilson says, "The TennCare scaleback affects those in the spend down category. Those are patients who make too much money to qaulify for TennCare, but have too high of medical bills. So TennCare wiill apply those bills to their income, lowering them down to a qualifying level."

Instead....that catergory will expand to include 20,000 patients. TennCare will also continue to enroll 22,000 new low-income, disabled, or other qualifying needy every month.

Dr. John Beuerlein with UT Medical Center worries TennCare's pushing the costly healthcare burden onto hospitals.

"If a patient comes to our doors, we're not going to turn them away. We're obligated to treat under Federal Law to assess patients."

The E-R's exactly where Lemmer may end up.

When TennCare tests someone's eligibility, the medically needy, or spend down program's always the last option.

If you think you may be eligible, TennCare still encourages you to apply. The program will fill-up on a first come, first serve basis.

If you need healthcare help, TennCare suggests checking out the state's Cover Tennessee alternatives. Also, check your local Department of Human Services. They can tell you about special free clinics or indigent care options in your county.

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