Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First quota is met for TennCare plan to help those with high medical bills

2,500 register via hot line; another round of applications will be announced later STAFF REPORTS • October 5, 2010 In just over an hour, 2,500 Tennessee residents in need registered Monday to get a waiver for the state's TennCare program. It was the first round of applications for Standard Spend Down, a program to help people qualify for TennCare if they have high medical bills and are aged, blind, disabled or the caretaker relative of a Medicaid-eligible child. The state set up a toll-free hot line for residents wanting an application. Initially, it wasn't clear how quickly the applications would be snapped up. So the state scheduled the hot line to be open 2½ hours a day, starting at 6 p.m. Monday, until 2,500 applications came in. The phone lines closed at 7:10 p.m. After the first round of applications has been processed, the hot line will reopen and the public will be notified when to call to request an application. Program has 7,000 cap Tennessee hospitals partnered with the government to help the state's sickest and poorest residents offset the high cost of their medical bills. The program has funds to enroll only 7,000 people. It targets people with very low incomes or very high medical bills. People applying will be screened to see whether they're already receiving TennCare benefits. The applications are mailed within two weeks. Those who receive an application have 30 days to mail their information back to the Tennessee Department of Human Services in postage-paid envelopes. The $32.7 million program is funded in part by $9.6 million in voluntary fees that Tennessee hospitals imposed on themselves to attract federal matching funds for indigent health care. The one-year program will allow people who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid to meet the income requirements — once their medical bills are factored into the equation. So, a widow living off a comfortable pension but dealing with mounting medical bills, or a single mother battling cancer, might be able to qualify for aid without sacrificing their incomes. For more information on the Standard Spend Down program, including eligibility requirements, visit the TennCare website at www.tn.gov/tenncare.

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