Budget & Finance

Insurance Debate

By Joetta L. Sack — November 30, 2004 1 min read

Three weeks ago, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen appeared ready to pull the plug on the state’s troubled TennCare health-insurance program and put the savings into prekindergarten programs.

But a few days later, he decided to give TennCare one more chance at life.

The $7.8 billion program offers managed health-care insurance to more than a million Tennesseans who otherwise wouldn’t have insurance, including young children whose families are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. But since its inception in 1994, TennCare has been bogged down by criticism and lawsuits.

Gov. Phil Bredesen

Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, announced Nov. 10 that the state would return to a more traditional Medicaid program because the TennCare system had become too expensive and subject to litigation.

“It pains me to set this process in motion, but I won’t let TennCare bankrupt our state,” he said.

On Nov. 15, he told a Tennessee School Boards Association conference that he was worried that the rising costs of TennCare would hurt education programs.

“The reality is, people elected me to manage the state and to manage the budget, and I certainly can’t put at risk things like education and higher education,” Gov. Bredesen said at the conference. “There’s no higher priority to me than early-childhood education.”

But by the end of the week, he appeared to have had a change of heart. He acknowledged that by replacing TennCare with a more traditional Medicaid system, about 430,000 Tennesseans would lose their health insurance.

Calling TennCare “the most difficult problem I’ve ever tackled,” the governor, a former health-care-company executive, said on Nov. 18 that he would make one last attempt to resuscitate the program.

Stephen Smith, the director of government relations for the TSBA, said the school boards’ group was happy to hear the governor talk about more money for pre-K programs. The group has long supported a statewide pre-K program, but the state has not been able to find enough money for it.

The TSBA has also been working with state lawmakers for five years to try to get them to allow schools to tap TennCare funds for reimbursements for special education and other medically related expenses, as they do with Medicaid. The group has not taken a position on whether TennCare should be replaced.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2004 edition of Education Week


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Budget & Finance From Our Research Center School Leaders Say Stimulus Cash Will Go a Long Way—But Deep Funding Challenges Remain
An EdWeek survey finds many districts avoided the dire fiscal fate predicted last spring. But a flood of federal aid poses stark choices.
8 min read
Illustration of school building and dollar symbol
Budget & Finance Letter to the Editor Don’t Knock Schools for Cautious Spending
School district leaders must navigate many complexities as they seek to invest federal recovery funds, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Budget & Finance Spotlight Spotlight on The American Rescue Plan
In this Spotlight, subcategorize the unprecedented digits K12 will have available and more.
Budget & Finance Spending on Special Ed. in Some Districts Plunged This Year. Budget Cuts Could Be Next
Schools faced unprecedented challenges delivering instruction and support to students with disabilities this year—and the costs of providing those services evolved as well.
7 min read
An Issaquah School District school bus waits at an intersection near where a rally to encourage wider opening of in-person learning was being held on Feb. 24, 2021, in Issaquah, Wash.. Students in kindergarten and lower-elementary grades recently returned to school in the district under a hybrid in-person learning program, but older elementary, middle-, and high school students are still being taught remotely.
A school bus waits at an intersection near the site of a rally in February to encourage wider opening of in-person learning in the Issaquah School District in Issaquah, Wash. Transportation costs for students with special needs this year dipped because of remote learning.
Ted S. Warren/AP