Since 2014, by the legislature’s own estimate, Tennessee has lost – and continues to lose – $1.4 billion annually ($3.8 million/day) in federal health care funding. These are Tennesseans’ federal tax dollars that are being sent to other states when they are needed here at home. Contact your state legislators and demand that we take advantage of federal money available for health care in Tennessee.
JOBS AT RISK
If the TN legislature brought home our federal tax dollars, that money would generate 15,000 jobs. That funding could sustain Tennessee’s hard-pressed rural hospitals and the other health services that rely on the local hospital. Tennessee has lost ten hospitals since 2010 — more hospitals for its size than any other state. Though many urban hospitals are profitable, safety net facilities are in trouble.
If the TN legislature brought home our federal tax dollars, that would allow our state to provide health insurance to 280,000 Tennesseans, affording them financial security and access to necessary health care. They are low-wage workers who are unable to get coverage through their jobs. Click here to learn more about who these 280,000 Tennesseans are and why they fall into the “coverage gap.”
Think Big. Act Bigger.
Tennesseans all around us struggle without healthcare coverage. They are our neighbors, they shop with us, they pray with us, they work with us. But without access to health care, their lives are marked by struggle and insecurity. By barring the use of available federal funds, Tennessee legislators have denied these hard-working families health care and financial security that is only available to those with insurance. Tennesseans’ taxes make it possible for legislators and their families to enjoy health insurance. Legislators should not deny the same protection to the Tennesseans they strive to serve.
Lifting the legislature’s ban on the use of federal funds would extend coverage to 280,000 Tennessee adults who are in the “coverage gap.” Most are low-wage workers employed in food service, hospitality, construction, and cleaning and maintenance. Click here to see the top 9 occupations for people in the gap.
Health coverage enables people to be healthier and more productive, reduces employee absenteeism, and enables many people with medical limitations to rejoin the labor force. In Ohio, a state that makes full use of its federal health funds, An analysis of Medicaid expansion in Ohio, most expansion enrollees who were unemployed but looking for work reported that Medicaid enrollment made it easier to seek employment. Over half of expansion enrollees who were employed reported that Medicaid enrollment made it easier to continue working.
Our Healthcare System
Tennessee has lost more rural hospitals for its size than any other state in the nation. 32 more are at risk of closing or severely cutting their services. The legislative ban on using our federal health care funds starves those hospitals of revenues they urgently need. Most other states make full use of available federal funds. Research shows that states, like Tennessee, that refuse federal funding makes it six times more likely than their hospitals will close.
THE EFFECT OF HOSPITAL CLOSURES IN A RURAL COMMUNITY
Hospital closures threaten thousands of people’s jobs and the health care of everyone in the community. Hospitals are always among the largest employers in a community, and often they are the largest payroll. Hospitals are especially valuable because they provide jobs from entry level maintenance staff to high-level nurse, physician, and executive positions. Hospitals buy food and supplies and services locally. Their payrolls generate retail and service revenues, support real estate prices, and fill local government tax coffers that pay for schools and essential services. They are essential drivers of local economies in their own right. Research shows that the closing of a community’s sole hospital seriously depresses average per capita income, and significantly increases the unemployment rate in the community.
Hospital closures put financial pressure on neighboring hospitals, by increasing their burden of uncompensated emergency care. This creates a “domino effect” that leads to further hospital closings, a pattern that has already affected large areas of rural West Tennessee.
THE BURDEN OF MEDICAL DEBT AFFECTS US ALL
Uninsured medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in Tennessee. Even a single visit to the hospital can spell financial ruin and destroy a family’s dreams for the future.
When an uninsured person is overwhelmed by medical debts she cannot pay, the unpaid costs of her care must be made up somewhere. Those costs are shifted to other patients’ bills and ultimately show up as increased insurance premiums for those who have coverage. This is known as the “hidden health tax,” and on average, people with private family plans pay $1000 every year in the form of this hidden “tax.”
Using federal health dollars to cover uninsured families would protect those families and reduce the premiums of everyone with coverage.
PREVENTIVE CARE SAVES MONEY AND SAVES LIVES
For Tennesseans with insurance, most of their preventive care is covered: yearly check-ups, mammograms, pap smears, screenings for depression, blood pressure, diabetes, and many vaccines are covered. But such medically important – and cost-effective – care is out of reach for families without insurance. They are six times more likely than people with insurance to skip routine visits and needed specialist care because of inability to pay.
It is estimated that bringing home our tax dollars to close the coverage gap would result in:
Bringing home our tax dollars would help our state become healthier, and would literally save lives. States that have accepted federal dollars to cover more of their citizens have seen a 6% decrease in all-cause mortality.
Bringing home our federal health dollars makes sense for Tennessee’s economy. By the legislature’s own estimate, that would bring $1.4 billion annually into the state. That’s $3.8 million every day!
Those funds would preserve existing jobs in rural hospitals and add 15,000 new jobs in every county and every sector of the economy, according to the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research. That’s more than five times the number of jobs created by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development venture capital program over its entire eight-year history.