Thousands of individuals in Tennessee are being cut from TennCare, the state’s health plan for the indigent and disabled. Since 1994 TennCare administers the Medicaid program for the state of Tennessee. The changes are part of Governor Phil Bredesen’s plan to revamp the program and maintain overall costs. The cuts are directly impacting people with chronic and life-threatening conditions such as cancer and hemophilia. The cost of care for these patients, particularly for medications, is often exorbitant. Many cannot afford to pay for private health insurance and without access to a state health plan are for the moment left with little recourse.
The East Tennessee Comprehensive Hemophilia Center in Knoxville treats approximately 150 people with hemophilia, most of who are covered under TennCare. Melissa Chimenti, a social worker with the center, has said that some of these patients have already been dropped from the program. Over the course of several weeks she has made repeated attempts to contact state officials to attain some kind of help for these individuals.
The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration is responsible for creating a “safety net” program to forestall significant lapses in medical care, especially for those requiring special services. For those patients who have already lost TennCare coverage, access to chemotherapy, hemophilia clotting factor and other crucial treatments are becoming tenuous. Chimenti knows that for people with hemophilia the alternative is far from ideal. “Their only safety net is the emergency room, but they can’t go until they’re actually bleeding. By then, it can do some real damage.” She also acknowledged that time is of the essence, “I realize they’re busy, but many of our patients don’t have the time to wait.”
Source: The Tennessean, August 29, 2005