Unwinding from the Public Health Emergency- Information for Partners

Planning for the Public Health Emergency Unwinding

The COVID-19 federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) is expected to end in the coming months, and TennCare members will begin to go through the state and federally required redetermination process to determine continued eligibility for TennCare. TennCare’s priorities during this time of transition include minimizing gaps in healthcare coverage in an effort to further our mission of improving lives through high-quality, cost-effective care.

Impact of Covid-19 on TennCare

In January 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Public Health Emergency (PHE) due to the spread of Covid-19 in the United States. During the PHE, the annual renewal process and most Medicaid terminations have been suspended. While the Department of Health and Human Services renewed the PHE on October 13, 2022, the federal Public Health Emergency will end in the coming months. Once the PHE ends, state and federal law will require TennCare to resume terminations and begin the renewal process.

TennCare is planning and preparing for this “unwinding” from the Public Health Emergency, so that those eligible for TennCare and CoverKids can renew their coverage as easily as possible. Renewals, also called redeterminations or recertifications, are required by the federal government to check whether TennCare and CoverKids members are still eligible or if their coverage should be changed. Renewals usually occur every year to ensure members meet the eligibility rules so that TennCare can continue to serve Tennesseans eligible under the law. While this is a normal activity, all Medicaid agencies have significantly increased the number of people enrolled since the pandemic began, without redetermining eligibility for most enrollees.

To ensure that all eligible TennCare and CoverKids members will not risk a gap in coverage, TennCare has been planning and preparing for the eventual unwinding.

TennCare Unwinding Plan

As we prepare for the unwinding, we want to keep our members informed to prevent a gap in their health care coverage. We are working with our health plans (Managed Care Organizations), community partners, and TennCare providers to ensure that members receive accurate information during this time. Our approach is informed by Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance.

TennCare’s PHE unwinding will consist of four phases: Phase I (Plan), Phase II (Educate), Phase III (Renew), Phase IV (Transition).

The unwinding of the federal Medicaid continuous coverage requirement requires a coordinated, phased communications plan to reach members with messages across multiple channels using trusted sources. You can help in the following ways:

  • Stay informed: Join our email list to get the latest information on what phase we are in and the most up to date content.
  • Get the word out: Download the latest toolkit and help us spread the word.

TennCare's Current Phase: Phase 1

TennCare will be in Phase I until the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) moves to end the Public Health Emergency. Phase I encourages members to create TennCare Connect accounts and to provide updated contact information, including their name, address, phone number, and email address to TennCare. Updating contact information will help members stay informed and receive important information about keeping their TennCare and CoverKids benefits.

Members can update their information on TennCare Connect by accessing their online account at tenncareconnect.tn.gov, by calling 1-855-259-0701, or by using the TennCare Connect app.

Learn More About Each Phase

Phase I: Plan

Phase I encourages members to provide updated contact information, including their name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Updating contact information will help members stay informed and receive important information about keeping their TennCare and CoverKids benefits. 

Phase III: Renew

As TennCare enters Phase III, members will begin to get letters in the mail. As federally required, Tennessee plans on completing all renewals within a 12-month period and will begin each monthly cycle with an attempt to auto-renew members using existing data sources, including SNAP eligibility. Those who can be auto-renewed will not be required to submit a renewal form.

Phase II: Educate

Phase II will begin when HHS gives notification that it plans to lift the Public Health Emergency. HHS has informed states that it plans to give 60-days notice before ending the PHE. In this Phase, TennCare will increase public communication to alert members that renewals will begin soon.

Phase IV: Transition

For the final Phase of redetermination, TennCare will work to make sure that all eligible TennCare members maintain coverage. TennCare will electronically transfer data to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace automatically for individuals determined ineligible for TennCare.