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TennCare may have to cut enrollee benefits, prisoners released

by Lewis Loflin

Tennessee is suffering $1.5 billion budget shortfall. Typical is the problem with TennCare as officials plan to make a 9 percent reduction in spending due to their endless budget problems. To quote, "While most agencies have been asked to present plans to cut 6 percent from their spending plans for the budget year that begins July 1, the Bredesen administration has asked them to prepare an additional 3 percent cut in case economic conditions persist."

And to further quote the AP, "Officials for TennCare, the state's expanded Medicaid program, said the extra cuts would require changes to benefits, such as a $10,000 annual cap on inpatient care for non-pregnant adults. TennCare director Darin Gordon said that would affect about 5,100 enrollees and save roughly $51 million. TennCare has about 1.2 million enrollees." Associated Press November 19, 2009. Note that Tennessee has no income tax, but a 10% sales tax which has fallen recently.

The Tennessee Department of Corrections told Gov. Bredesen in order to cut $53 million from his budget they would have to set 3,300 inmates free earlier than expected. This sent "shockwaves" through the state. The prison population was expected to increase by 5000.

For local sheriffs that make housing prisoners a profitable business, they could be in trouble. Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes says, "I realize cost and things are important, but it's a great concern to us because of public safety. If those folks, even a small portion of them, go back into the crime field so to speak and habitually start committing crimes, your property damage, your insurance costs, your thefts, your losses are going to skyrocket."

And Washington County Tennessee Sheriff Ed Graybeal says, "If you were a victim, the last thing you want to see is someone who gets sentenced to three or four years to get out because of a financial situation. If the person gets out of jail and doesn't serve that time and doesn't realize what they did was wrong, they're probably going to be a repeat offender. That's what worries me more than anything. After we go to all the trouble to convict these people and to incarcerate these people, I think there needs to be a better plan."

Note that a lot of Tennessee crime often spills over into the bordering counties in Virginia. There's a combined 157 state prisoners in the Carter, Washington, and Unicoi County jails on various charges that could qualify for release. Ref. BHC 11-17-09

In fairness the crime rate in the Bristol region while growing in recent years (due mainly to drugs), is still far below the national average even with high poverty levels.

Cuts could close several Tenn. youth group homes. Tennessee Children's Services Commissioner Viola Miller says proposed additional cuts by Gov. Phil Bredesen would be "very painful." The governor heard from the agency's officials during budget hearings on Friday. In case economic conditions persist, Bredesen has asked state agencies to prepare an additional 3 percent cut from their spending plans in addition to the 6 percent he's already requested. Miller says the cuts would mean closing several group homes and downsizing youth development centers. She says about $76 million would be cut from the agency's budget. Associated Press November 23, 2009


Hiding Criminals in Tennessee

Dec. 20, 2009 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Officials say increased unemployment is causing more Tennesseans to have their criminal records expunged so they can be more competitive in the job market.

Through November, The Tennessean reports state records show nearly 26,700 people had criminal records wiped away by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. In March alone, the state processed 3,156 expunctions - the legal process by which records are taken out of the public realm.

This year's number is already well above annual expunction rates from 2003 to 2007, when state workers typically processed between 20,000 and 23,900 requests each year. In 2008, nearly 35,000 people had arrests taken off their criminal records.

TBI officials would not speculate on why requests are up, but officials say the increase coincides with unemployment accompanying the economic downturn.

Tenn. gets $12M stimulus grant for health records, won't create a single job

This is why the so-called stimulus funds have produced few if any private sector jobs. Most of the funding in Virginia and Tennessee have been used to prop up government jobs.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has announced Tennessee will receive nearly $12 million in federal stimulus money to help health care providers use and exchange more electronic health information.

The grants are part of a $1 billion in grants issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to make health information technologies available to hospitals and physicians. (in other words the typical unemployed person won't see a dime of this.)

About $7.3 million of the Tennessee share will be used by QSource, the state's Medicaid quality improvement organization, to establish a regional extension center in Nashville. The center will help health care professionals. An additional $5 million grant from the Department of Labor will go to Centerstone of Tennessee Inc. for job training in the health care field.

Note that Gov. Phil Bredesen is slashing TennCare payments by 9 percent and will stick hospitals and providers with any bill over $10,000. Ref. Associated Press February 15, 2010. Posted February 26, 2010.