Rural Health Clinics in Tennessee Holds Payments

Several recently opened rural health clinics in Tennessee are struggling to stay open after a state program didn’t give them all promised funds.

Servolution Health Services began offering services in March to citizens living in the small town of Speedwell where one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty line and experiences high rates of hypertension and diabetes.

The clinic is now stuck in a governmental knot created as a result of the state’s TennCare program, along with almost 20 other rural health clinics that recently opened in the last 15 months.

Several TennCare payments that were promised to all of these clinics are on hold while state legislatures determine new payment rules.

State and national health care organizations have urged Tennessee to stop the freeze on payments in several letters and in person meetings. In a meeting last month, the organizations told TennCare officials that a lot of the rural clinics are on the verge of closing its doors as a result. They also are confused as to why state officials are taking so long to create these new rules and finally give the rural health clinics the funding they were promised, according to the Tennessean.

“The time has come for the moratorium to end,” Bill Finerfrock, executive director of the National Association of Rural Health Clinics told the Tennessean. “Forty-nine other states have figured out how to do this and do not have the same kinds of issues.”

Under the TennCare program, rural health clinics in the state receive an extra rate called a “wraparound payment” for every TennCare patient that’s treated. The payments are merged into the program to make sure that people living in underserved areas have access to doctors and nurses.

Without these wraparound payments, the clinics are paid around 20 to 30 cents on the dollar of their actual costs to cater to patients, according to Rebecca Jolley, executive director of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee.

In addition, the funds clinics receive from TennCare without these payments aren’t enough to keep them in business.

The freeze is set to end in April, but the possibility that the state will seek another extension is still present.

Monica Levitan can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @monlevy_.

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