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State agencies brace for cuts up to 5 percent
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NASHVILLE (AP) — TennCare officials have again proposed eliminating counseling services to hospice patients and their families if the state’s expanded Medicaid has to reduce spending by 5 percent, though Gov. Bill Haslam stressed it’s his “firm hope” the deepest cuts can be avoided.The Republican governor has asked each agency to plan to spend 5 percent less for the upcoming budget year.TennCare’s proposal would result in a cut of about $343 million, including ending hospice counseling services, reducing reimbursement rates to providers, cutting a $10 million grant and eliminating coverage for prescription-strength allergy medications.“In a list of a lot of really difficult decisions, none of them really are too appealing,” said TennCare director Darin Gordon.Gordon stressed no medical service would be cut to people in hospice care, through bereavement support would cease to be offered to adults.A similar proposal was averted for the current budget year when lawmakers used savings to reduce TennCare cuts from 5 percent to 2.3 percent.“Our firm hope is we don’t have to ask you to go into that 5 percent,” Haslam told TennCare officials during the hearing at the state Capitol. “We’ll do whatever we can not to get there.”Tennessee’s sales tax revenues grew 6.5 percent in the first quarter of the budget year, and general fund collections have come in at $57 million above projections.