Rep. Bryan Terry begins session with district debriefing with Gov. Bill Lee

January 19, 2021

On January 12, legislators were sworn in to office for the 112th Tennessee General Assembly.  During his tenure, Rep. Bryan Terry, MD (R-Murfreesboro) has taken the opportunity to engage Governors Bill Haslam and Bill Lee in pre-session discussions that he refers to as a District Debriefing.  Following the swearing in ceremony, Terry met with Gov. Lee to discuss issues important to District 48 and Tennessee.

“Throughout the year or during session, as legislators, we often have the opportunity to have meetings or discussions with the Governor on various issues.  While there is a time and place for specific discussions like I had with Governor Haslam during the TN Together opioid debate, I see these ‘District Debriefings’ as an opportunity to provide the Governor with a general overview of concerns and laying the groundwork for more specific discussions,” explained Terry.  “This debriefing was no different as we were able to discuss issues like COVID, patient protections, provider concerns, issues related to growth counties and the BEP, the TennCare 3.0 waiver, and clinical cannabis.”

Rep. Terry said that the COVID discussion focused on concerns from providers, as well as the number of hospitalizations.  Prior to the debriefing, Tennessee had begun to see a drop in hospitalizations, but not enough days had passed to consider it a trend.  “At the time of our discussion, I had noticed a peak of around 3300 hospitalizations which has put a strain on the system, but Tennessee was beginning to see a drop in those numbers.  We are now down about 600 hospitalizations which could be secondary to several factors including vaccines, behavioral changes, or an increase in those who have developed a natural immunity,” stated Terry.

Terry said that he pointed out issues related to health care access, insurance network adequacy, and billing practices in the private market, as well as concerns related to the TennCare 3.0 waiver which passed last week.  “Many providers, particularly in rural areas or distressed counties, take on a disproportionate number of TennCare patients within their payer mix.  Since TennCare pays significantly less than commercial insurance or even MediCare, it has become near impossible for rural providers to stay afloat.  If we want to improve rural health care and ensure access, we need to dedicate some of our shared savings from the TennCare 3.0 waiver to those rural providers,” explained Terry.

In 2020, Rep. Terry proposed legislation to have the growth counties in Tennessee meet to develop a plan for handling school and infrastructure growth.  In addition, he proposed legislation to have the Basic Eduction Program(BEP) Review Committee evaluate the funding formula for growth counties.  Unfortunately, with the COVID pandemic, both pieces of legislation were halted.  “These problems related to growth still exist and economic conditions have changed since the BEP formula has been revised and since counties made long term financial decisions years ago.  Tennessee ranks as one of the top relocation states, and our state and counties must adjust to ensure that we can grow responsibly,” commented Terry.

Terry ended the debriefing with a discussion on clinical cannabis and decriminalizing patients who utilize medical forms of cannabis under medical direction or in research.  Terry believes that with the United Nations removing cannabis from the “most dangerous drugs” list, it is likely that the U.S. will follow suit and decriminalize, deschedule, or reschedule cannabis.  Tennessee should be prepared for such action.  “Republicans on the federal level failed to take action to protect patients who benefit from clinical uses of cannabis.  It was a missed opportunity and likely cost Republicans the Senate with the loss of Gardner in Colorado.  Criminal justice reform is a top issue facing the nation and most can agree that we don’t need to criminalize patients.  It’s beyond time for Tennessee to take steps in advancing science, research, and medical treatments for cannabis patients while ensuring that we do so in a manner that protects patients,” exclaimed Terry.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns with the Governor.  It’s my hope that we can continue to make Tennessee a better place through positive policy,” concluded Terry.

Rep. Bryan Terry, MD is Chairman of the Tennessee House Health Committee and serves on the Health Subcommittee, both the Insurance Full Committee and Subcommittee, as well as Calendar and Rules.  His office can be reached at 615-741-2180 or via email at Rep.Bryan.Terry@Capitol.Tn.gov