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House GOP Review for 02/28/2008

The House GOP Review is a weekly feature that gives Tennesseans an in-depth look at what our Republian state legislators have been working on this week, and a glimpse into what’s planned for the coming week at our state house. 

The Tennessee Republican Party LogoLawmakers from the Senate and the House held a press conference this week to promote key healthcare proposals aimed at helping elderly and disabled Tennesseans receive more options in their healthcare, including staying in their homes for as long as possible.

The long term care legislation is part of a series of bills aiming to help citizens “age in place.” One bill, which has already passed the Senate health committee, calls for a pilot program that allows individual patients to choose from specific services that fit their needs and also allows them to choose who performs the tasks. Consumers would receive a monthly budget based on their needs, and could use the money to hire personal assistants, make home modifications, and more. Legislators stressed the importance of the legislation, saying that Tennessee should give its seniors more options with regards to home and community based care, noting that whereas some citizens need the 24 hour attention a nursing home can give them, others simply need an assistant to come to their home a few times a week to give them a bath, assist with medication, or perform other household tasks.

Arkansas, Florida, and New Jersey were the pioneers of this self-directed health care concept. Since that time, 12 other states have expanded their choices. In Arkansas, there was a 40% reduction in nursing home admissions in the second year of the program, and the total Medicaid cost per person under the self-directed care plan was about he same as that for the traditional agency model. Studies show that, by every measure, self-directed care is succeeding and that consumers with this option are reporting greater satisfaction, better quality of life, and fewer unmet needs.A second proposal would encourage personal responsibility by rewarding those who purchase long term care insurance. Currently, to receive state dollars for long term care, participants are required to “spend down” their assets—sometimes having to dispose of family heirlooms, land, or other things that have sentimental value. The legislation would allow seniors to retain those assets, dollar for dollar matched with the private long term care insurance purchased.

Several other states have enacted similar laws, with more considering enacting them this year. The main crux of the bill, asset protection, is a key component of the program. For every one dollar of private long term care insurance paid, one dollar of personal assets would be protected should the policyholder ever need to apply for Medicaid services. For example, if someone had a $100,000 long term care policy, once those policy benefits have been exhausted the program would protect $100,000 worth of assets and still offer Medicaid benefits.

Tennessee spent approximately $1.1 billion on long term care last year. Out of the 22,000 seniors on Medicaid in Tennessee, only a few thousand receive home and community based care services. 98% of all monies spent on long term care are spent on nursing home care.

In brief…

  • A bill that will change the spring sales tax holiday has passed through the committee system and will be heard on the floor next week. The bill will move the spring sales tax holiday from March 21-March 23 to April 25- April 27, so that the holiday will not fall on Easter. The Senate has already approved the measure.
  • Representatives were encouraged this week to promote “Tennessee History for Kids,” an initiative that provides Tennessee students with the tools to learn and understand the history of the state. The website, http://www.tnhistoryforkids.org/ notes that most public school students in Tennessee have no Tennessee history or civics textbook, even though students in about half of the grades are required to learn parts of the subject every school year. Tennessee History for Kids is a public-private partnership whose governmental sponsors include Governor Bredesen, the Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
  • On Monday evening, the House of Representatives honored Tennessee’s historically black colleges and universities in a ceremony that included the Presidents from Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, American Baptist College, Knoxville College, Lane College, and LeMoyne-Owen College. The event was hosted by the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators in honor of Black History Month.
  • House Bill 2452 designates March 29th as “Vietnam Veterans Day,” in order to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. The bill passed on the House floor on Monday, with all representatives present voting in the affirmative.
  • The Former House Minority Leader Tre Hargett was confirmed this morning by the House of Representatives as a director to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. The Senate has already voted to confirm Mr. Hargett.

The Week ahead…

  • House Bill 3681 allows municipalities located within the large urban counties to select the color scheme of the municipality’s ambulances, provided that the color scheme is the same used for the municipality’s fire department vehicles. (Transportation)
  • House Bill 583 creates a Class A misdemeanor for person communicating death threat concerning a school employee or student. (Judiciary)
  • House Bill 2943 requires the department of education to develop and implement a college scholarship program promoting civic learning and good citizenship. (Education)
  • House Bill 3943 requires school principals to grant students excused absences for up to 10 days for purposes of visiting a parent or legal guardian who is stationed outside the country and is granted rest recuperation by the United States military. (Education)
  • House Bill 2615 is a bi-partisan measure creating a special joint legislative committee to study improvements to TWRA. (Conservation & Environment)
  • House Bill 3112 specifies that in addition to the regular costs of an action, a court may award attorney’s fees and reasonable costs to establish marital fault. (Children & Family Affairs)
  • House Bill 2915 prohibits printing a social security number on voter registration cards. (Finance, Ways, & Means)
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The House GOP Review is written by Kara Watkins the press secetary for the House Republican caucus. Kara was an administrative assistant for Marsha Blackburn for Congress, and she also has worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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