Medicaid expansion to close Tennessee’s health insurance gap

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Judy Roitman, Randal Rice and Clare D. Sullivan

  • Judy Roitman, LMSW is Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
  • Randall Rice is the chairman of the board of directors for the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign.
  • Clare D. Sullivan, RN, FNP is a retired nurse practitioner.

It is high time to close the health insurance coverage gap in Tennessee.

For the past 10 years, the Tennessee General Assembly has refused to cover most low-income adults. These are people who cannot afford insurance. While 38 other states have expanded Medicaid coverage, lawmakers in Tennessee have remained silent.

More than 300,000 Tennessee residents can’t afford health insurance during the worst pandemic in 100 years. If we have learned anything from this terrible time, it is that we are all essential. These same uninsured workers pack our groceries, serve our food, help our seniors at home.

None of us are safe when one of us cannot afford to stay home when sick, cannot afford to manage chronic illnesses, and cannot afford. seek emergency care until it is too late.

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It’s time to close the gap

Health insurance gives people access to preventative care that can save thousands of dollars. For example, a hypertension medication at $ 15 per month could prevent a single hospitalization of $ 100,000 for a stroke or heart attack. The expansion of Medicaid offers hope for a cure for those with addiction who cannot afford treatment.

Lack of insurance and unmanaged chronic illnesses have resulted in significant racial and rural disparities in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tennessee. The expansion of Medicaid is a lifeline for adequate preventive and acute care for low-income Tennessee residents.

Other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen an expanding business climate, improved wealth, and an increased tax base. Poor health is an economic problem, resulting in reduced productivity and less participation in the workforce.

Higher rates of uninsured patients are also a factor in the economic instability of rural Tennessee hospitals. Hospitals in states that have extended Medicaid are six times less likely to close.

Tennessee politicians complained that the expansion of Medicaid would cost the state too much money. Last spring, the federal government has offered Tennessee $ 900 million in net incentives to expand Medicaid. This funding, authorized by the American Rescue Plan, would cover the full cost of the expansion for more than 6 years. Yet the General Assembly refused to act.

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Today, the US Congress is considering including Medicaid Expansion in the reconciliation package currently under negotiation. This proposal would bypass the Tennessee General Assembly and provide free insurance directly to uninsured low-income people through Healthcare.gov.

The reconciliation bill includes other needed health reforms, such as dental, vision and hearing support for those dependent on Medicare and improvements in home services for people locked in Medicaid.

Public opinion in Tennessee is overwhelmingly in favor of the expansion of Medicaid. It is time for our politicians to stop bending to extremists and act for the good of our communities.

Please tell our US Senators and Representatives to support the Reconciliation Bill. If the Tennessee General Assembly cannot act in the best interests of our state, let’s ask the Fed to straighten things out.

Judy Roitman, LMSW is Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.

Randall Rice is the chairman of the board of directors for the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign.

Clare D. Sullivan, RN, FNP is a retired nurse practitioner.


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