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The Weekender: TennCare chief talks opioids + TN sales tax boost from SCOTUS?

Spotlighting what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.



New: Competition shakes up Tennessee ACA exchange: Highlights an urban-rural divide, ups interest in cost impact

New: Frist talks Cressey’s desire to find tech-enabled companies changing health care in 5 years

Tennessee poised to get new ACA health insurers for 2019



1. Supreme Court lets states force online retailers to collect sales tax

Lawrence Hurley, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 21 in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states can require sales tax be collected from online retailers. A federal report estimates that nationwide there could be up to $13 billion collected annually.

Tennessee is one of the five states that could see the biggest boost from the ruling given its reliance on sales tax, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Even though an estimated 75 to 80 percent of online sales already include sales tax, the 5-4 ruling is “credit positive because state and local governments may see sales tax gains amounting to 1-2% of total state tax collections,” the Moody’s report said using estimates from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

It’s estimated that Tennessee could see roughly 1.5 percent to nearly 2.5 percent increase in sales tax growth of its total taxes, per Moody’s.


2. Combatting Opioid Misuse in Tennessee and West Virginia: A Conversation with Two State Medicaid Directors

Lauren Moran and Rachel Yard, Center for Health Care Strategies

Dr. Wendy Long, the director of TennCare, answered six questions for the Medicaid Leadership Institute about how her agency is trying to fight the opioid abuse and addiction — and whether the agency is seeing results.

Excerpt: “TennCare is seeing a decline in the number of opioid prescriptions it is covering, but we’re not yet seeing a reduction in the number of NAS births and overdoses. At the same time, we’re seeing an increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with SUD. We’re not sure if that’s a feature of our additional focus and outreach on the issue — which could be a positive thing if we’re identifying more individuals who need treatment.”


3. The untold good news story of America today

Tom Geoghegan, BBC News reporting from Blue Earth, Minnesota

This piece came from a response to the BBC’s request to hear from Americans about how their towns are changing via its Ask America newsletter.

It’s a fascinating Sunday read that looks at how one small Minnesota town is reinvigorating its main street and bring its colleges graduates back home instead of losing them to cities.

Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, says: “I believe that we are entering the Third Wave of the internet, a period in which entrepreneurs will leverage technology to revolutionise major sectors of the economy – healthcare, financial services, agriculture and others,” he says.

Excerpt: “These deep, structural changes and bursts of creativity appear to be especially evident in cities and towns in the Midwest, long derided as “flyover country”. Now it’s more like “flying back home country” as thousands of people return to their hometowns from bigger coastal cities, bringing with them new ideas and a drive to succeed.”

Tell me about your town: I’d love to get out around the state some more and am looking for ideas to chase en route to the places I know I want to go! Email at

Photo by specphotops on Unsplash

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