Moving the Needle for Medicaid Expansion in Tennessee Pt. 2

July 7, 2018 / Author: Hayes McAlister

Where Do We Go from Here?

Unfortunately, many Tennesseans are discouraged that they may never see the reality of Medicaid expansion in the state. It is understandable to be cynical of the General Assembly. It is disheartening that our legislature is still wrapped up in the political dogma surrounding “Obamacare.” Medicaid expansion is still going strong across the country, and a handful of other non-expansion states are considering ballot initiatives or other ways to expand Medicaid.

It is troubling that our legislature has yet to take a vote on the issue despite its mammoth importance to the state and high approval rating.

But, the ice is breaking. Last April, the credible Comptroller Mason-Dixon Polling polled Tennesseans on the support of Medicaid expansion. When presented with information about how Medicaid expansion would affect the state, 63% of Tennesseans support the measure. People are more likely to support expanding access to affordable healthcare coverage when they understand all the practical benefits the state receives.

TJC’s Bring it Home Campaign is non-partisan, pragmatic and local. The name and messaging focus on bringing home our state’s dollars, jobs, and healthcare.

Dollars: 3.8 million lost per day, 1.4 billion per year, Jobs: 9,000 at risk, 15,000 created, Healthcare: offering access to affordable healthcare for 280,000 working Tennesseans.

The goal of the campaign is to educate the public and individuals running for office to bring about Medicaid Expansion in the 2019 Legislative session.

What Have We Been Doing

In April of 2018, TJC celebrated Tax Day across the state, which coincided with the end of the 2018 legislative session. Tennesseans gathered in towns and cities across the state at their local post offices for Tax Day. During this effort, we thanked Governor Haslam for his support of expanding Medicaid so that more people can get affordable health insurance. Constituents also asked the Governor to use the remainder of his time in office to hold a special session to accept federal funds and bring our own tax dollars back home to Tennessee.

Throughout June and July summer months, we met individuals across the state who are interested in affordable healthcare. The grassroots advocacy team at TJC facilitated 13 community-organizing meetings in urban and rural counties where we shared educational information on the benefits of expansion and discussed county-specific health trends. We spent time at the meetings talking through the contemporary snapshot of Tennessee health and what kinds of actions might be most impactful depending on individual areas. We met with 9 newspapers throughout our travels to bring local attention to the issue of Medicaid expansion.

In June, TJC organized a public forum sponsored by the Tennessean entitled A Tale of Two Countries: The Cost of Not Expanding Medicaid. The event was moderated by John Seigenthaler and attended by three health policy experts hailing from across the country to discuss the large-scale effects and result of expanding health coverage to people. Attendees asked national experts about the micro and macro implications of expanding Medicaid in other states and how it might be rolled out in Tennessee.

In July, TJC co-convened with a broad coalition of organizations to strategize the growing momentum for Medicaid expansion. The meeting focused on the contemporary national snapshot of Medicaid expansion and how to most effectively move the needle on expansion in Tennessee. Organizations in attendance mapped out the best strategies to educate constituents and legislators and mobilize grassroots supporters.

What can we be doing?

We can be relentless at sharing information regarding Medicaid expansion and all the many things it would do for the state. We are in the midst of a major electoral cycle in Tennessee and we often remind supporters that there is nothing more impactful than committing to meet in person with all candidates running for office in their districts. One true benefit of 32 states expanding Medicaid across the nation is that there is no shortage of scientific data and published reports on health, the economy and various social metrics related to expansion. It is time for our legislators to roll up their sleeves and acknowledge the solution that has sat waiting in sight for the past 4 years.


1. Sign the TJC Bring it Home Petition

2Bring it Home webinar: Tennessee Justice Center has posted several webinar recordings to Youtube. These webinars explain the logistics of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and what kinds of advocacy initiatives are most important.

3. Advocacy 101