Expand Medicaid in Tennessee
WHO DOES MEDICAID HELP?
Tennessee’s Medicaid program, called TennCare, is a federal-state partnership that provides health insurance to many children, low-income pregnant women, and individuals who are elderly or have disabilities.
If you need application assistance for TennCare, CHIP, or other Medicaid Savings Programs, visit our Need Our Help page here.
WHAT IS MEDICAID EXPANSION?
Medicaid expansion was designed to extend Medicaid benefits to groups who previously did not qualify for the program. Under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, individuals and families with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line ($17,609/year for a single person) would be eligible. A 2012 Supreme Court decision ruled that the option to expand would be given to states rather than being implemented nationwide, as it was originally intended. This ruling has put Tennessee lawmakers in charge of Medicaid expansion for almost a decade, and they have not opted to expand yet.
Tennessee is winning the race to the bottom in terms of health. We are first in the nation for hospital closures per capita, in the bottom ten states for maternal and infant health, and we have some of the highest increases in uninsured residents, even before the pandemic. Medicaid expansion could help turn the tides on Tennessee’s poor health rankings by increasing healthcare coverage gains and improving long-term health outcomes.
We can’t wait.
OVER 300,000 UNINSURED
In Tennessee, over 300,000 people are uninsured with no access to healthcare, and that number is growing by the day. Medicaid provides quality health insurance to individuals and families who would likely fall into this 300,000 person-wide gap in healthcare coverage. That’s 300,000 more people who won’t have to choose between next month’s rent and their kid’s medicine. That’s over 300,000 more people who can make Tennessee’s workforce stronger and healthier than it was before. That’s over 300,000 more people who could afford access to care and treatment when they’re sick. Closing the gap is key to reducing health disparities across groups.
Right now, there are 1.4 billion dollars of federal tax dollars per year in Washington waiting for us to use in our state. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s incentive, our state could also receive an additional $900 million over two years ($1.2 million per day) over and above the cost of expanding coverage. Medicaid expansion would yield a net gain in our state’s economy by supporting 15,000 new jobs and making Tennesseans healthier on average. Thriving hospital systems provide jobs for more healthcare professionals. Healthy workers keep businesses running smoothly. Medicaid expansion is just good business.
Medicaid expansion is effective. A review published in May 2021 revisits the findings of 404 reports which detail the substantial impact Medicaid expansion has had on states who have chosen to adopt it. These studies reiterated that expansion greatly increased healthcare coverage throughout the states, reduced uncompensated care costs for hospitals, boosted access to care and better long-term health outcomes. The most recent review also showed a positive correlation between expansion and improvements in mortality rates; coverage rates for people with cancer, chronic illnesses, and disabilities; and access to care for people with substance use disorder and mental illnesses.
RURAL HOSPITALS ARE AT RISK
Rural hospitals are at greater risk of closure in states that have not expanded Medicaid. In Tennessee, 14 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade. That is the highest rate of hospital closure per capita in the nation. Many Tennesseans experience healthcare deserts, meaning they live in an area where access to a hospital requires extensive travel. In an emergency, this long trip could mean the difference between life and death. Right now, 23 Tennessee counties have no hospital. Over half of Tennessee’s 95 counties are federally classified as medically underserved areas, meaning they have too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population.
*Dots indicate locations where hospitals have closed in recent years.
Expanding Medicaid 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.
MEDICAID EXPANSION NEWS
Your voice makes a difference. Visit our Action Center for up-to-date calls to action for Medicaid expansion and TJC’s other advocacy efforts. You can also sign up for our email newsletter tailored to your interests! Want info about Medicaid expansion or nutrition advocacy or children’s health? We’ll keep you informed on the issues affecting Tennessee healthcare.