News Health Systems

Tennessee Sued for Denying, Delaying Access to Medicaid

Nina Liss-Schultz

The lawsuit, brought by three legal advocacy groups, makes several allegations, most basically that the state has created a series of bureaucratic hurdles that essentially prohibit access to the state’s Medicaid program, making it the most difficult state in which to enroll in Medicaid.

Three legal advocacy groups in Tennessee filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday against the state for adopting policies that delay and deny health coverage to people eligible for Medicaid.

The lawsuit makes several allegations, most basically that the state has created a series of bureaucratic hurdles that essentially prohibit access to the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, making it the most difficult state in which to enroll in Medicaid.

For example, according to the lawsuit, Tennessee has failed to provide in-person assistance for people trying to enroll in TennCare, and no longer accepts completed applications in person. It also has not set up a website for TennCare enrollment, instead forcing people to use the federal insurance exchange website, which was not designed to process state-level eligibility. In some cases, says the lawsuit, otherwise eligible Tennessee residents using the federal website to sign up for TennCare are actually denied coverage because the website cannot determine eligibility under certain categories outlined by state law.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a baby, identified as S.G., who was born into coverage under a health program called CoverKids; when he left the hospital Tennessee revoked that coverage. S.G. was born premature and as a result has specific medical needs. Though his parents make less than $2,000 a month and re-applied for CoverKids days after his birth, they have still received no notification from the state.

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Tennessee is one of 24 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which also required states to streamline and improve their Medicaid enrollment processes. Last month, the Obama administration warned six states, including Tennessee, that they were failing to comply with the federal law. In a letter dated June 27, the Department of Health and Human Services requested that Tennessee submit a plan to the government detailing how it will come into compliance with Obamacare. In a defiant response, a TennCare official blamed the state’s health-care woes on the federal website, saying that only “a small percentage of applicants have had difficulty completing the enrollment process, but almost all of those problems have been the result of flaws in the federal government’s healthcare.gov website.”

A staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the organizations that brought the suit, said in a press statement that Tennessee officials are intentionally sacrificing the health of its citizens in order to “score political points” with Republicans by making Obamacare look bad.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Sanders Vows to Continue the ‘Political Revolution’

Ally Boguhn

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t bowing out of the race for the Democratic nomination after the close of the presidential primaries, and Hillary Clinton took to the Huffington Post to talk about campus sexual assault and whether women should have to sign up for the draft.

“The Political Revolution Must Continue”: Sanders Vows in Thursday Night Address to Push for Party Reform

Sanders addressed supporters Thursday night after the 2016 presidential primary season ended earlier this week. He seemingly signaled he is not yet ready to concede the nomination to Hillary Clinton, and he promised to help push for reforms within the party while working to keep presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump from winning the White House.

“Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week, and every month in the fight to create a nation and world of social and economic justice,” Sanders said during the address, which was live-streamed online. “Real change never takes place from the top on down or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up, when tens of millions of people say loudly and clearly ‘enough is enough’ and they become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.”

“The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders continued, vowing to soon begin his role in ensuring the Republican doesn’t make it to the White House.

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“But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal,” he added. “We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become.”

Expressing his hope that he could continue to work with Clinton’s campaign, Sanders promised to ensure that supporters’ “voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda.”

That agenda included raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ending the gender pay gap, defending reproductive rights, and protecting marriage equality in the United States, among other things.

Sanders’ speech came just after campaign manager Jeff Weaver said the campaign is “not currently lobbying superdelegates” and doesn’t “anticipate that will start anytime soon” during an interview on Bloomberg Politics’ With All Due Respect Thursday. The next day, Weaver told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Sanders is still “an active candidate for president.”

Clinton Weighs in on Stanford Sexual Assault Case, Women Joining the Draft

Hillary Clinton took a stand on two notable issues during an interview with the Huffington Post this week, telling the publication that she supported a measure in the Senate to require women to sign up for the draft and her thoughts about the Stanford sexual assault case.

“I do support that,” Clinton told the publication Wednesday when asked about the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, a military policy bill that would require women to sign up for the military draft once they turn 18, earlier in the week.

“I am on record as supporting the all-volunteer military, which I think at this time does serve our country well,” said Clinton. “And I am very committed to supporting and really lifting up the men and women in uniform and their families.”

As the New York Times reported, under the bill, “Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.”

Though the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that women weren’t required to register for the draft as they were not allowed to serve in combat, the Times continued, “since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.”

The draft registry has not been used by the United States since 1973, but requiring women to sign up for it has nevertheless been an issue on the campaign trail this election season. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called requiring women to register for the draft “nuts” in February prior to dropping out of the race for the White House, while other then-Republican presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush all signaled they would support it.

During her interview with Huffington Post, Clinton also voiced her support for the survivor at the center of the controversial Stanford sexual assault case, saying she was “was struck by” the “heartbreaking power” of the letter the survivor wrote detailing her experiences.

“It took great courage and I think she has done an important service for others,” Clinton said. “What I’ve heard about this case is deeply concerning. It is clear campus sexual assault continues to be a serious problem. And I’ve said before and I will continue to say it is not enough to condemn it. We must find ways to end it.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee had previously released a platform for addressing the national crisis of campus sexual assault, which promises to “provide comprehensive support to survivors;” “ensure fair process for all in campus disciplinary proceedings and the criminal justice system;” and “increase sexual violence prevention education programs that cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.”

What Else We’re Reading

Trump’s “endgame” could be launching a “mini-media conglomerate,” Vanity Fair reports.

“He was always very open about describing women by their breast size,” a crew member for Trump’s reality show The Apprentice told Slate of the presumptive Republican nominee. “Any time I see people in the Trump organization say how nice he is, I want to throw up. He’s been a nasty person to women for a long time.”

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando at an LGBTQ club, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director of the LGBT Rights Project, David Dinielli, noted that “candidates on the campaign trail-and even the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party-elevate radical anti-LGBT leaders.”

Fact-checkers at the Washington Post took on both Clinton and Trump’s speeches on national security after the massacre in Orlando over the weekend.

“Regardless of your politics, it’s a seminal moment for women,” said Oprah, who offered her endorsement to Clinton on Wednesday, when speaking about the presumptive Democratic nominee. “What this says is, there is no ceiling, that ceiling just went boom! It says anything is possible when you can be leader of the free world.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Tal Yellin, and Ryan Browne offer a look into the implications of Trump’s proposed plan to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies.”

Univision penned an open letter on Tuesday expressing their concern over Trump’s decision to revoke press credentials for the Washington Post.

Republicans may have fewer women in the House next year after the election season wraps up.

Texas has already spent $3.5 million fighting multiple lawsuits over the state’s restrictive voter ID law, in what an attorney helping plaintiffs in one of the suits deemed a “shameful waste of taxpayer money.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) moved to make voting in the state easier for some this week, signing legislation that will allow residents with driver’s licenses and state IDs to register to vote online. What’s the catch? According to ThinkProgress, “the option will not be available until early next year, after the presidential election, despite the Republican Secretary of State’s insistence that the Ohio could implement the policy immediately.”

News Economic Justice

GOP Governors Ask Congress to Allow Failed Drug Testing Policy for Welfare Recipients

Ally Boguhn

Tennessee in February became the latest state to see the drug testing of welfare recipients fail, after less than 1 percent of those who applied for welfare benefits tested positive for drugs in the program's first 18 months.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and ten other Republican governors signed a letter Monday urging Congress to allow drug testing to determine eligibility for food assistance—a policy that has fallen flat everywhere it’s been implemented.

Walker was joined in his call by GOP governors from Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. The group claimed that states have the right to drug test users of social safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

Though at least 15 states drug test those enrolled in or applying for public assistance programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, or welfare, the federal government does not allow the same for SNAP.

“Since SNAP and other welfare programs typically have job training requirements as a core element, we write today to express our sincere confidence that drug testing recipients of SNAP benefits is not only lawful, but will aid in our ability to move individuals off of this welfare program and back into the workforce as productive members of their communities,” asserted the governors’ letter. 

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Tennessee in February became the latest state to see the drug testing of TANF recipients fail, after less than 1 percent of those who applied for welfare benefits tested positive for drugs in the program’s first 18 months. Of the 7,600 welfare applicants since the implementation of North Carolina’s drug testing policy, there were 89 people required to take a drug test and 21 tested positive.

Twelve out of 466 applicants tested positive for drugs from 2012 to 2013 after Utah Republicans required testing for those receiving benefits.

Nevertheless, the two-year state budget signed by Walker in 2015 included a provision requiring drug testing for food assistance applicants. Walker preemptively sued the federal government in 2015 to allow the change, arguing that those who use food assistance “are ‘welfare recipients’ and therefore may be tested and sanctioned for the use of controlled substances.”

In a statement announcing the governors’ letter, Walker lauded legislation introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) that would allow states to drug test to determine SNAP eligibility.

The Wisconsin governor and failed GOP presidential candidate claimed that such a move “makes it easier for recipients with substance abuse to move from government dependence to true independence,” and that he looks “forward to working with [Aderholt] on this crucial issue and implementing this common-sense reform in Wisconsin.”

Critics, however, say Aderholt’s measure is an attempt to further stigmatize those living in poverty.

“Why aren’t my Republican colleagues calling for drug testing for wealthy CEOs and oil company executives who receive taxpayer subsidies?” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said in February during debate on the House floor, according to the Huffington Post. “Why is it that they always pick on poor people? It’s a lousy thing to do.”