Expand Medicaid in Tennessee


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.


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.


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 would have access to care and treatment when they’re sick.


Right now, there are 1.4 billion dollars of yearly federal tax dollars in Washington waiting for us to use in our state. 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. As of 2020, 404 reports detail the substantial impact Medicaid expansion has had on states who have chosen to adopt it. These studies found that expansion greatly increased healthcare coverage throughout the states, reduced uncompensated care costs for hospitals, boosted access to care and improved long-term health outcomes.


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.




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.