NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A top Republican state lawmaker wants to block insurance companies that cover gender-affirming care outside the state from contracting with TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. 

House Bill 1215 by House Speaker Cameron Sexton would prevent a managed care organization, or MCO, from partnering with TennCare if it or its parent company covers transgender care, including surgeries, hormone treatment, or puberty blockers, to adults or minors through:

  • The bureau of TennCare;
  • Any private health insurance program regulated by this state;
  • Any state or local insurance program; and
  • Any other program for insurance or medical assistance regulated or administered by another state.

TennCare contracts with MCOs to provide Medicaid coverage to eligible Tennesseans. The state currently has contracts with Amerigroup, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and UnitedHealthcare, according to TennCare’s website.

Around 1.7 million Tennesseans are currently enrolled in TennCare.

If the bill becomes law, an MCO in violation of the act would have 90 days to comply or lose its eligibility to participate in TennCare.

The legislation came before the House Insurance Subcommittee on Tuesday.

“The purpose of this bill is to prevent an MCO contracted with the Bureau of TennCare from covering a medical procedure performed anywhere in the country for the purpose of artificially changing a person’s sex,” said Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), who presented the bill on Sexton’s behalf. “Tennessee taxpayer dollars should not be used for such procedures.”

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro)

Rudd said if an MCO doesn’t comply, it would still be able to offer insurance to Tennesseans, just not through TennCare.

Rep. Caleb Hemmer (D-Nashville) asked what would happen if no MCOs were able to provide care due to the proposed law.

“There are already plenty of MCOs already wanting to be one of the treasured three right now, so I don’t think that would be an issue,” Rudd said.

Rudd said the bill would not prevent insurance companies from covering counseling.

Seven people testified against the legislation and asked committee members to vote against it. No one from TennCare testified.

The subcommittee approved the bill with Hemmerand Rep. Bo Mitchell, the only two Democrats on the 12-member subcommittee, voting against it.

“I ran for office to help people, to give more people care, to give more Tennesseans care, not to take things away from people,” Mitchell said. He believes the proposed law would not survive a legal challenge.

The bill will now go to the House Insurance Committee.

Tennessee Republicans are also considering legislation to ban gender-affirming care for minors.