Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Health Care Coverage Gap Townhall Meeting

Contact state legislator about the Insure Tennessee

A woman writes to her representative
By Tim Wheat

The Tennessee Health Care Campaign held a Townhall meeting on Insure Tennessee at the Benjamin Hooks Memphis Public Library Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m. About 30 people came out to hear the plan for improving health and keeping billions of dollars from leaving our state. People were asked to write House Speaker Beth Harwell and their state representatives to get Insure Tennessee back on the legislative agenda for 2016.

The town hall meeting began with a video produced by the Tennessee Justice Center that described the problem in Tennessee of the coverage gap. Residents of Tennessee with fixed and very low income are covered by the state Medicaid program called TennCare; most people can afford coverage and benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy; however, over 280,000 Tennesseans, including 24,000 Tennessee Veterans, fall into the gap between TennCare and subsidy.

Tony Garr
Tony Garr with the Tennessee Health Care Campaign gave a brief history of how our state got to this point. He noted that over 60,000 residents of Shelby County will fall in the coverage gap that Insure Tennessee is intended to protect. He was clear that Insure Tennessee is not Obamacare and has no cost to taxpayers.

Mr. Garr quoted a University of Tennessee study that showed Insure Tennessee would bring over $1.2 billion into the state. The reverberation of this advantage would not only be in public health, but could prevent hospitals from closing and would add more than 15,000 jobs to the Tennessee economy. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health estimated that they would save $40 million.

Mr. Garr showed that these figures are not hypothetical. Kentucky, although a smaller state than Tennessee, has expanded its Medicaid program and has saved $802 million and created 40,000 new jobs. In the first year of Medicaid expansion, Kentucky had $6 billion in state savings from uncompensated care alone.

“America gets little for the high health care costs we pay,” said Rick Donlon of Resurrection Health. “Not accepting Insure Tennessee has real-life repercussions for Memphis. This city is suffering already from a two-tier health care system. They say you should be careful driving down Wolf River Parkway with your window down, you may get a heart-stent.”

Dr. Tom Cooper of the University of Tennessee gave a view from his perspective working in the Emergency Room. He pointed out that the people in the coverage gap are working citizens that have jobs and want to keep them. Uncompensated care is often delayed and more expensive, and it is those with insurance that are absorbing the cost.

A Graduate Assistant at the University of Memphis told the audience that he is in the coverage gap. Steven Payne just checked on his health care cost and found that it would be 32% of his annual income. He said he has no coverage but supports Insure Tennessee so that working residents can get the health care they need. 

Contact state officials:

Governor Bill Haslam
1st Floor State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243

House Speaker Beth Harwall
301 6th Ave. North Suite 19 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

Find my legislator: 

See photos from the event.