Blake Farmer

Tennessee's reluctance to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is still being blamed for the high number of hospital closures in the state — the most in the U.S. outside of Texas. And this week brings one more. The Decatur County Commission decided to close its only hospital this week, citing the increased taxpayer subsidies.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander has backed off his demands to add health insurance subsidies for low-income Americans to a year-end spending bill.

Alexander was the co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would fund subsidies to insurance companies that offer plans on the marketplace. Another bill addressing Obamacare was co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Tennessee counties are joining the list of entities suing pharmaceutical companies over opioids. Smith County is the first to file suit in federal court. Davidson County is likely to follow after approval by the Metro Council Tuesday night.

Sen. Lamar Alexander acknowledges that the final tax bill set to pass this week will increase health insurance costs for those who use the federal exchanges. But he says his bipartisan bill to stabilize the insurance marketplace will offset the cost increase.

More Tennesseans seem to be buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, even though advertising has dropped considerably under the Trump Administration. Open enrollment for 2018 ends Friday at midnight, and the number of applications processed by federally-funded insurance guides — known as navigators — has already surpassed last year. Many enrollees are finding that despite a leap in average price, they are paying less.

Forensic experts say they're alarmed by two drug combinations that recently showed up in the TBI crime lab. One is a mixture of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Another is cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

Tennessee is in a better position than most states as funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program runs out. Congress still hasn't reauthorized what's known as CHIP, and some states are already beginning to send out letters telling families to prepare for coverage to go away.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

One of Nashville's most prolific hit-makers died Sunday. Mel Tillis spent the last year dealing with intestinal issues, according to his publicist. He died at a hospital in Ocala, Florida, at age 85.

TennCare has tightened controls on opioid prescriptions in recent years, and the state's Medicaid program plans to go a step further next year. It's an effort to decrease the use of highly addictive narcotics — and save some money.