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The Impact of Politicalization on Access to Healthcare

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

A young TJC client who was on TennCare because her mom was pregnant hasn't known a life where she couldn't go to the doctor or have to worry about medical costs. She knew that she would eventually have to come off TennCare, but no one took time to explain the Medicaid process to her or her mom so they believed mom coming off when she was 18 and she would maybe have it until 25 due to private healthcare laws. The only reason she kept it as long as she did is because she is a needy adult (note: she is referencing the Medically Needy Spenddown category because of her age; she is not disabled and does not have an illness). Then the pandemic happened, and she got to stay on it longer. Losing Medicaid didn't cross her mind until renewal letters went out. They initially filled out the app and sent it in. Then TennCare requested they apply again. They found TennCare Connect and did it online but got denied even though she only makes $8,000 a year and mom makes $1,000 a year.

She is currently getting a master’s degree and has a plan in place to get another master's degree. She is not a person that is just trying to mooch off of the government. People are not trying to mooch. A lot of people just need help. She just needs a little help. She is so close to where she wants to be, she just needs a little help.

When she got notice of the decision from TennCare, she thought she would keep her TennCare because the notice said her income was wrong (more than $2,000 a month). A TennCare attorney said they didn't know why the letter said that and that it was a mistake. This was devastating because she was hopeful she could remain on it. So she did so much research because she wanted a second opinion. She didn’t trust TennCare's attorney. Then she learned of Medicaid expansion. In 41 states she would qualify for assistance, but she lives in a state that has not expanded Medicaid. She was struck with helpless anger. She said there are a couple million Americans that qualify for Medicaid but can't get it because of the politicalization. She said it's not a political issue. Everyone has to go to the doctor. Doesn't matter if you're republican or democrat. Every single human on this planet needs medical assistance at least one time or another in their life. We don't live in a world where there is a job that necessarily comes with medical insurance. She talked about the really helpless feeling. There are probably people who need it more than you and in worse situations than you and they still can't get it as a result of a lack of sympathy. She could never even fathom people not understanding that everyone has to go to the doctor. Cannot fathom people not understanding that things happen to everyone. Cancer doesn't have a face, she can pick who she wants. Anyone can get cancer, anyone can get lupus, or diabetes-- illness doesn't know bad from good. Doesn't really care. Could be healthy and then something just happens. Unfathomably cruel.

She feels like she'll be okay. She found free clinics near her and online resources. But her biggest concern is her mom. She needs to go at least once a year and she cannot go right now. It would be really nice if our state legislature would acknowledge that people between 19 and 64 also have a right to healthcare. Stuff happens to those people too. Especially when even those of us need something like SSI check or disability going to have to go through extreme medical debt to even be considered. And then no guarantee you can get on it. It's just really cruel. If 41 states opted in then we know that it works, that it's helpful. Finally, some of the most underserved populations in the country are getting something for their effort and existing. “Because I promise if I could just pay I would. If I could just support myself and my family, I would. I just need a little assistance until I can get there.”

She also discussed how much money that TN misses out on. If they don't use expanded Medicaid (everyone has to pay in). Everybody is paying into everyone else's expanded Medicaid, but we don't get it.

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