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Blackburn Asks HHS Secretary To Try Again

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Blackburn Asks HHS Secretary To Try Again

At the conclusion of her testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 24th, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pledged to respond to Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (TN-7) questions regarding TennCare. Secretary Sebelius' answers arrived today and they are suprising in their brevity.

In a letter delivered to Secretary Sebelius today, Congressman Blackburn asked her to try again.

"As you are aware, the response from your office was inadequate at best, insufficient, and in need of additional detail provided to my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee….. That is in part why your original responses are so disappointing. Hence, I would appreciate the professional courtesy of more complete and thoughtful answers," Blackburn said in the letter.

Congressman Blackburn asked Secretary Sebelius a simple but pertinent question; what has the Administration learned about public option health care from Tennessee's experience with TennCare?

"As with the proposal before us, Tennessee legislators were promised that TennCare would save money over the current system and allow expanded coverage. Medicaid enrollees were taken off a system they were comfortable with and forced on a new public option similar to provisions included in H.R. 3200, which is currently before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In 1994, TennCare cost approximately $2 billion; by 2004, it had exploded to $8 billion, consuming nearly every dollar of new state revenue and nearly bankrupting Tennessee. TennCare didn't save money, it didn't expand coverage as it promised, and ultimately more than a hundred thousand people had to be removed from the program," Blackburn said in her follow-up letter.

Secretary Sebelius' official response, which only reached Blackburn's office today, is reproduced in its entirety here: "We have learned many lessons from the TennCare experience and recognize its goals, but TennCare is not a traditional public option."

This incomplete, and nearly disrespectful, response clearly begs more questions. What has the Administration learned from TennCare? If TennCare isn't a traditional public option, what is?

"There is one person in Washington who ought to be able tell us how TennCare lessons learned are being applied to this plan. There is only one person who can assure the country that the errors of the past won't become the disaster of the future. She evaded the question the first time, lets hope she will find time to answer it this time," Blackburn said.

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