NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tennessee Must Cut Back Insurance For "Uninsurable"

May 3, 1999

It has been the most ambitious plan in the nation to provide insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of people who either couldn't afford it on their own, or were too sick to get private coverage. But the costs have become prohibitive and Tennessee must now scale it back.

  • Five years ago, Tennessee converted its Medicaid health benefits to managed care and used the savings to establish Tenncare -- a giant step on the road to universal coverage.
  • Tenncare now covers 24 percent of the population -- including 768,000 Medicaid recipients, 108,000 uninsurables and 411,000 others who either are not offered insurance through their jobs or who can't afford it if they are.
  • Now Gov. Don Sundquist (R) has proposed a moratorium on new enrollments for six months or a year -- while the state explores cutting benefits, raising premiums or tightening eligibility.
  • Spending on the present program is expected to rise 12 percent for the year beginning in July.

Complaining that the state has "a spoiled population that wants everything for nothing," Tenncare's director says the poorest recipients could help pay for their care if they would only curb their use of cellular phones and cigarettes.

He wants to tackle problems such as insurance companies suspected of dumping patients on Tenncare, illegal enrollments, excessively generous benefits and failure to verify enrollees' incomes.

Source: Peter T. Kilborn, "Tennessee Talks of Rolling Back Health Pan for 'Uninsurables,'" New York Times, May 1, 1999.


Browse more articles on Health Issues