Tennessee proposal to block TennCare contracts over trans health stopped in the Senate

A bill sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton, at right, to prohibit insurance companies from participating in TennCare has stalled in the Senate. / Tennessee Lookout Photo by John Partipilo

Legislation seeking to block Tennessee's Medicaid program from contracting with any insurance company that covers gender transition health care in another state has stalled in the state Senate.

House Bill 1215, sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, would eliminate all of TennCare's contracts with managed care organizations covering gender-affirming care in other states. BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare and Anthem are currently allowed to sell TennCare plans and, all three cover gender transitions in other states -- but not through TennCare.

TennCare covers over 1.7 million income-qualifying Tennesseans, half of whom are children. The bill carried a critical fiscal note, which said TennCare would have to eliminate its current managed care organization system, "forced to switch to a fee-for-service model."

(READ MORE: Tennessee bills target gender identity and expression)

A fee-for-service model means health care providers would bill TennCare for every test, visit or procedure. Critics argue this model encourages doctors to order more tests and procedures regardless of the outcome.

Sexton, R-Crossville, said he disagreed with the idea that other insurance companies couldn't step in.

"There would be a lot," Sexton said. "There are a good dozen that could provide those services."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County DA Wamp says drag performers will only be prosecuted for performing sexually around kids)

Sexton's office did not respond to a question asking for the names of insurance companies that could provide this coverage. Most major insurance companies cover gender transition care in other states.

There were also questions about the bill's legality because the federal government must approve all TennCare changes.

The Senate has not moved the bill to a committee, and Adam Kleinheider, Lt. Gov. McNally's spokesperson, said he has "no plans to run the bill in the Senate."

The House deferred action on it to the end of the legislative session.

(READ MORE: Tennessee Lt. Gov. McNally accused of hypocrisy after posting heart and fire emojis on gay performer's Instagram)

The bill comes as McNally, R-Oak Ridge, is under intense scrutiny over LGBTQ issues. The lieutenant governor used his official Instagram account to like and comment supportive messages on racy photos of a young gay Knoxville man. This led to a vote of confidence from the Senate Republican Caucus, which backed McNally.

Tennessee Republicans have passed several bills this year targeting the LGTBQ community. Legislation signed into law in 2023 included banning gender-affirming care for minors and restricting drag shows that children can attend.

Read more at TennesseeLookout.com.