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New Data Finds Number of Uninsured Children Increasing at Alarming Rate
Analysis shows 38% increase in the number of uninsured Tennessee children between 2016 and 2019

An estimated 80,000 Tennessee children were uninsured last year, a number that has increased about 38% since 2016, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Tennessee’s experience is part of a national trend that left an estimated 726,000 more children without health coverage nationwide since our country achieved an historic low number of uninsured children. Many of the coverage gains of the Affordable Care Act for children have now been eliminated. Coverage losses have been concentrated in the South and West and have been largest for white and Latino children.

“For decades, children’s health coverage had been a national success story that we could point to with pride, but the data shows the trend is now going in the wrong direction,” said Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Executive Director Joan Alker. “What’s worse, the number of children losing coverage accelerated from 2018 to 2019 during a time when unemployment was very low. The situation is likely worse today.”

The increase in the number and rate of uninsured children occurred prior to the pandemic and associated economic downturn and is attributable to losses of public coverage – primarily Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The situation has most likely deteriorated in 2020 for children as their parents lost their jobs and health coverage this year, but there is still no reliable data to estimate the extent of these coverage losses.

“These numbers are more proof of a growing number of Tennessee’s children going without health insurance,” said Kinika Young, senior director of health policy and advocacy at the Tennessee Justice Center. “This damaging trend will have long-term consequences for children and communities across Tennessee because without health coverage, children cannot access the care they need to grow and thrive.”

Research shows children with health coverage are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and grow up to be healthier and more productive adults.

“State leaders need to get rid of the red tape in TennCare that denies eligible kids health coverage and expand Medicaid because when parents are insured their kids are more likely to get and stay covered,” said Kinika Young.

The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019.

This is the 10th annual report on uninsured children published by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families. The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019. For more information about the report, visit


The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee since 1996. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit families in need statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.

TJC is located at 211 Seventh Avenue, North, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, call 615-255-0331.




Kinika Young

Senior Director of Health Policy and Advocacy