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Tennessee will become the first state in the U.S. to provide free diapers to families enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, following federal approval. Families under Tennessee’s Medicaid program can receive up to 100 diapers per month for children under two starting in August. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved Tennessee’s proposal, stemming from a 2023 initiative by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. The diaper benefit aims to support families and prevent diaper rash and urinary tract infections in infants and toddlers. Newborn babies can require eight to 10 diapers a day, or around 300 a month, while toddlers can use around 150 diapers a month.

Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee welcomed the approval, highlighting the state’s commitment to supporting families in need. Tennessee’s diaper benefit will be available at TennCare pharmacies, with the state allocating $30 million in TennCare funding for this initiative. In addition to the diaper benefit, CMS also approved increasing TennCare’s income limit for parents to 100% of poverty. Previously, Tennessee’s income eligibility was based on specific monthly amounts rather than being connected to the federal poverty level. This change will increase the income limit for parents from around $1,600 a month to about $2,000 a month.

The new diaper benefit in Tennessee has generated national attention for being a groundbreaking initiative to provide much-needed support for families. The state’s income eligibility for parents and caretakers is now the highest among the 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility broadly for adults under the Affordable Care Act. Tennessee’s willingness to reject federal funding, such as opting out of a federal program that provides $40 per child per month for food and rebuffing roughly $9 million in federal funding for HIV prevention and treatment, has sparked controversy. The state’s decision to fund these programs with state dollars instead of accepting federal funding has been criticized by public health advocates.

Despite facing criticism for rejecting federal funding for certain programs, Tennessee’s diaper benefit stands out as a positive step towards supporting families in need. The state’s commitment to providing free diapers to families enrolled in the Medicaid program demonstrates a focus on promoting family well-being and addressing the needs of infants and toddlers. By offering up to 100 diapers per month for children under two, Tennessee aims to prevent diaper rash and urinary tract infections, which are common medical conditions in infants and toddlers. The approval of this initiative by CMS signifies a significant milestone for Tennessee in leading the nation in prioritizing resources for families in need.

Governor Bill Lee expressed pride in Tennessee becoming the first state in the country to cover the cost of diapers for mothers in the first two years of a child’s life, emphasizing the importance of strong families in building strong communities. The diaper benefit is a result of an initiative backed by Governor Lee in 2023 and has received support from CMS. By approving the diaper benefit and increasing TennCare’s income limit for parents, CMS has recognized Tennessee’s efforts to support families and prioritize resources for those in need. The state’s decision to provide free diapers is a model that could potentially be followed by other states in the future. Overall, Tennessee’s diaper benefit represents a step in the right direction towards addressing the needs of families and ensuring the well-being of infants and toddlers in the state.

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