Senate in a Minute from Senator Bill Ketron

Senate in a Minute

NASHVILLE, (February 24, 2017) — Legislation, I am sponsoring, which aims to reduce the risk of preventable complications and death due to stroke passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week.  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in Tennessee.  It is the leading cause of acquired adult disability which has a significant physical, emotional, and economic impact on patients, their family caregivers and the state’s health care system at large.

Senate Bill 544 comes from recommendations from the Tennessee Stroke Best Practices Task Force and the American Heart Association.  The legislation strengthens the state’s existing Stroke Registry by requiring all certified comprehensive and primary stroke centers to share blinded data with the registry in order to compile a complete report on stroke care in Tennessee. The data would enable health organizations to study the fifth highest killer of Tennesseans in depth, including best practices for treatment.  It will also provide evidence to allow hospitals and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies to apply for federal level grants.

Action by the committee this week comes after country music legend Randy Travis, who suffered a major stroke in 2013, visited our legislature earlier this month.  I was very pleased to present him with Senate Joint Resolution 60 at a tribute concert that evening at Bridgestone Arena to recognize his many contributions to country music and the State of Tennessee and his support of stroke research and awareness.  A portion of the proceeds raised from the tribute will go to the Randy Travis Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to raise money for stroke research and rehabilitation.

Convention of States — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday that appoints commissioners to the planning convention for a prospective Article V convention for the purpose of adopting a federal balanced budget amendment.  Article V provides that upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, Congress shall call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

We must stop the out-of-control spending which has now grown to more than $20 trillion.

Senate Joint Resolution 48 also provides an oath for the commissioners to take to ensure discussions are limited to the planning of the convention, including recommendations for rules and procedures, and the initial date and location in which it would meet.  The resolution follows Senate adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 9 which makes the initial call for a convention of states in Nashville on July 11, 2017.  The convention would be the first formal meeting of the states since 1861.  I am co-sponsoring both of these resolutions.

In addition to myself, under the bill, the Tennessee delegation for the planning convention would be Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), Representative G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) and Representative Jay Reedy (R-Erin).

Healthcare — Among agencies appearing before Senate committees this week were the Tennessee Among agencies appearing before Senate committees this week were the Tennessee Division of Health Care Finance and Administration, which administers the state’s TennCare program, and the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which regulates the state’s health insurance industry.  Both agencies talked about the changing national landscape as Congress and President Donald Trump consider measures to revise, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is also known as Obamacare.

The federal government has steadily increased requirements on states in regard to populations and services that must be covered by TennCare, which serves the state’s Medicaid population.  These federal regulations block or severely limit a state’s ability to innovate and make changes designed to control costs or promote personal responsibility.

Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak told members of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee that Congress should return as much flexibility as possible to the states to address their respective marketplace needs as they consider revisions to the ACA.  In the meantime, she stressed the need to stabilize the state’s individual markets by focusing on key areas that can provide immediate assistance like rating factors, essential health benefits, special enrollment periods and grace periods.  McPeak also stressed the need for Congress to remain transparent and to engage stakeholders to minimize surprises in the regulatory system to prevent insurers from leaving.

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