The future of health care is consistently one of the top issues facing Tennesseans and America. Encouraging steps are being made to address access with recent announcements by Belmont University to launch a new college of medicine and Middle Tennessee State University's medical school partnership with Meharry Medical College. While these programs will increase medical providers, State Rep. Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) has been working on solutions to improve patient access and care.
"Health care is always one of the top issues for constituents," stated Terry, an anesthesiologist and Chairman of the Health Committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives. "When it comes to health care, quality, affordability, and access are the three pillars that need to be addressed. But the issues are not as simple as some candidates or elected officials blindly opine. A lack of understanding by many, not just of the industry but of human nature, places patients and communities at risk. That's why I've been introducing solutions and continue to fight for patients."
During his tenure in the House, Terry has not only served as the chairman of the Full Health Committee, but also chaired the Health Subcommittee and the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families (TANF) Working Group. In addition, he has served on the Public Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Facilities, Licensure, and Regulations, TennCare, and Insurance Committees.
Terry's extensive experience has provided him the opportunity to have a significant impact on health care policy like the TN Together opioid law, Telemedicine, and the TennCare Katie-Beckett Waiver that provides home-based medical needs for children.
Terry points out that over time the health care system has evolved and adapted because of the negative market conditions and regulations, but these changes don't necessarily address the three pillars of quality, affordability, and access. The consequences of the changed system have included leakage of revenue producing providers from rural areas and independent medical groups across the state with the end result impacting small practices, hospitals, and patients.
"Tennessee is ranked as one of the best states for providers, and we have some nationally ranked facilities for patient care and research. So overall, Tennessee is satisfying the quality pillar," explained Terry. "But the issue is often ensuring affordable access to these providers, particularly in certain pockets of our state. Since I've been elected, Tennessee has 8,000 new physicians, 5,000 new nurse practitioners, and an additional 5,000 licensed hospital beds. While that is great news, the reality is that because of onerous regulations and narrow insurance networks related to the Affordable Care Act, increased medical practice overhead, and provider reimbursement disparities between rural and urban areas, these recruitment efforts are still facing significant challenges to address access and affordability."
Terry has offered solutions to address these disparities to promote access and affordability. Two measures he has offered include the Healthy Adults Opportunity Block Grants (HB 2573) and anti-predatory contracting legislation (HB 709). House Bill 2573 instructed the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance to research the viability of a Trump Administration program that could help cover uninsured with non-Medicaid insurance via a combination of federal funds along with employer and patient contributions. The second bill, HB 709 would require fair contracting for providers, particularly in rural areas, if that provider or facility accepts TennCare patients. This measure would help address the payer mix disparities between urban and rural providers and facilities, and decrease provider leakage. This would improve access in rural areas while promoting competition in urban areas.
Terry has, also, put forth legislation that would protect patients with pre-existing conditions, as well as address the issue of balance billing.
"In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Emergency Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Hospitals and providers were required to treat emergency or laboring patients regardless of their ability to pay, but the law never required insurers to cover those emergency treatments. Addressing the issue of uncovered emergency treatment would fix 95 percent of balance billing," explained Terry. "I've offered legislation to protect patients with pre-existing conditions, as it can be addressed at the state level, as well."
Terry pledged to continue to work on these health care measures. "As a patient, a provider, and a business owner, I see the various aspects of health care. It is a complex balance of ensuring quality, affordability and access," Terry said. "Regardless of the issue, people want solutions. Socialism, and in particular socialized medicine, is not a solution. It's surrender."
Rep. Bryan Terry, MD serves as the Chairman of the Health Committee and as Chairman of the TANF Working Group. He lives in Murfreesboro and represents District 48 which is the eastern half of Rutherford County. He can be reached via email at rep.Bryan.Terry@Capitol.TN.Gov or via phone at 615-741-2180.