New laws will go into effect on July 1 in Tennessee to help improve the health and welfare of Tennesseans. These laws are focused on increasing access to patient-centered care as well as providing resources to families in need.
Among these new laws is the enactment of major legislation, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixon), unanimously approved by the General Assembly in 2021 to strengthen and improve the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through allocating funds to innovative initiatives. The program funds, which come from a federal block grant, provide important support to struggling families such as child care assistance, temporary cash assistance, transportation, job training, employment activities and other support services offered through the state’s Families First Program.
Some of the innovative new initiatives created by this law include:
• a two-year pilot program to provide enhanced cash assistance to individuals who are actively pursuing educational opportunities;
• the Families First Community Grants to infuse $50 million in TANF reserve funds into the community through grants to organizations providing services to low income families;
• a TANF Advisory Board to approve grantees and provide important input regarding the effectiveness of existing Families First and Two-Generation Program programs;
• increasing the TANF allotment to families.
A new law, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), designed to increase the number of primary care physicians in Tennessee’s rural communities will also go into effect on Thursday. It establishes residency opportunities focusing on family practice, general pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry to provide medical and behavioral health services in Tennessee’s underserved and distressed rural counties. Under this legislation, rural hospitals and community health centers will have access to these residents, which has been needed for a long time. Approximately 60% to 70% of doctors stay in the communities where they train.
The Patient Access Choice and Transparency Act, sponsored by Senator Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro) will become law on July 1. It prioritizes patient-centered care by making certain reforms to how Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) operate in Tennessee. It helps ensure patients can use the pharmacies they choose and trust rather than being forced by their insurance companies to use specialty pharmacies that often don’t meet patients’ needs. This is particularly important for patients with chronic, complex or rare diseases.
PBMs are companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers and others. They are owned by insurance companies and often own pharmacies as well.
This new law does important things including:
• protects rural hospitals that utilize 340B programs across the state to provide lifesaving medication to some of our state’s most marginalized citizens;
• prohibits PBMs from steering patients away from their community pharmacies to PBM-owned pharmacies which is particularly important to patients with chronic, complex and rare diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, cancer, and ALS;
• provides greater transparency to employers who want to gain a better understanding of how their pharmacy benefit expenses are being impacted by spread pricing and rebate retention which ultimately impacts their premiums; and
• provides more transparency for patients in real time when they are in a physician’s office as to what medications cost and their formulary.
As July 1 is the start of a new fiscal year, the 2021/2022 budget will also be enacted Thursday. It allocates over $235 million in new spending for health and social services programs.
A full list of key bills which were approved this year and will take effect on July 1 available here.