On Wednesday, Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak will host a public hearing in Cleveland to hear, and to have recorded into public record, these suggestions. The two-hour hearing will get under way at 10 a.m. in the Dixon Center on the Lee University campus.
Because of the complexities of the broad-reaching PPACA, McPeak — who was appointed to the state post by Gov. Bill Haslam in January 2011, and who has vast experience in the insurance industry — will kick off the session with remarks explaining the hearing’s ground rules and which specific areas will be open for discussion.
The state commissioner’s appearance in Cleveland is one of five remaining public hearings scheduled to allow public input on the federal plan and how it can be customized by state leaders. Hearings this week also are set up Tuesday in Kingsport and Knoxville, and on Friday in Memphis and Jackson.
Information distributed to news media outlets, and which can be found on the state agency’s website (www.tn.gov/commerce/insurance), specifies the statewide hearings are intended “... to gather input about the health conditions that should be covered under essential health benefit categories.”
Although we await Wednesday’s gathering in order to learn the direction of the public comments, it is important to understand the chance to offer input, ideas and suggestions about future PPACA implementation in Tennessee is critical because the federal law is allowing individual states to design health benefit coverage based on the perceived needs of their residents.
The law grants states the opportunity to select a package of coverage from 10 basic plans currently offered by large employer groups. These mandatory categories required for coverage include ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services (including behavioral health treatment), prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and pediatric services including oral and vision care.
One public hearing already has been hosted by McPeak at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The session served as a good indicator of what’s on the minds of Tennessee residents who have ideas about health conditions they believe should be addressed by PPACA.
One Tennessee resident, the chief executive officer of Nashville CARES, said he would like to see standardized care for HIV and AIDS victims. Another, who represented the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suggested the state consider using the BlueCross BlueShield plan that is currently available to federal employees.
Others spoke up on behalf of covering the cost of hearing aids for children and infertility drugs for couples struggling to have their own children. Another, who is a practicing Nashville attorney and who has struggled with multiple sclerosis for the past decade, suggested assisting MS victims. She said the cost of private insurance is prohibitive for most who are affected by this disease.
These are just a few suggestions state leaders have already received in just one public hearing. More will be coming and this is why local residents with insurance and health condition concerns should plan to attend Wednesday’s gathering.
More information is available on the department’s website. Those wishing to sign up as a speaker at the public hearing should plan to register at the site.
Because PPACA is in its infancy, residents should voice their opinions when given the chance, especially at such public hearings held in our own community.