Thursday, January 8, 2009

Court decision today deals blow to TN's poor

If the economy was not bad enough, Federal judge John Nixon lifted a 20-year-old restraining order against the state of Tennessee, preventing it from trying to kick up to 180,000 of our most vulnerable citizens off TennCare.

The order in what was called the Daniels case filed in 1987 prevented TennCare authorities from conducting annual reviews of the eligibility of these recipients. These are people so badly off that they formerly received Social Security benefits.

TennCare benefits kept them alive. Now these human beings, many who are disabled, will have to fill out a massive amount of paperwork to regain eligibility. We are talking about thick packets of information. And as you know from dealing with the government, understanding what is being asked often is most difficult.

Gordon Bonnyman, who heads the Tennessee Justice Center, says most of the 180,000 will stay on TennCare after elighibility is determined. But he is worried about those recipients too sick, old and confused to fill out the paper work.

Here are some recommendations to help our neighbors to still get help:

If they know they are on as Daniels, they should contact TennCare and give them their current mailing address, since that is often a problem. Putting it in writing would be a good idea, in case there is a problem later.

· If they are currently getting Social Security, they should make sure that Social Security Administration has their current address, since TennCare often allows the SSA address record to override whatever more current address the state or MCO has in its own records. They should make a record of their having notified Social Security if possible.

· TennCare will first check Social Security, food stamp and Families First records to see if there is information there that will make people eligible. If so, a person need do nothing and will keep getting coverage.

· If the person is not found eligible based on information in Social Security, food stamp or Families First records, they will receive a request for information packet, and it is of course crucial for them to send that back within the specified time (supposedly 30 days)

· If the information the person provides in the RFI is not enough to establish their eligibility, they will be notified that they are being terminated. If they have any reason to believe they are eligible, they should appeal and should be sure to ask to keep getting benefits pending an appeal.

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