UT Study: Uninsured Up Slightly In Tennessee

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Affordability continues to be a major hindrance to obtaining health insurance as the percentage of all Tennesseans, adults and children, without coverage increased from 6.7 percent in 2018 to 6.9 percent this year, according to a new report by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

This increase is consistent with nationwide trends.

About 8.1 percent of Tennessee adults are uninsured--a percentage that's essentially unchanged from 2018--while the share of children without insurance increased from 2.3 percent last year to 2.8 percent in 2019. Among those surveyed, 81 percent cited affordability as a major reason for not obtaining insurance.

The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients, 2019, authored by LeAnn Luna, an accounting professor in the Boyd Center, and Emily Pratt, a Boyd Center research associate, summarizes findings from a telephone survey of approximately 5,000 Tennessee households conducted between May and July.

The annual report examines the health coverage status of Tennessee residents, collects information about the use of medical facilities, and gauges satisfaction with medical services received.

The survey also asks TennCare members about their satisfaction with the medical services received and with the TennCare program as a whole. Overall, 94 percent of TennCare households are satisfied with the program, which marks the 11th year in a row that satisfaction levels exceeded 90 percent.

"TennCare continues to carry out its mission of providing high-quality care to our members," said Gabe Roberts, TennCare director. "Tennessee is transforming the way health care is delivered by partnering with the provider community and educating TennCare members on the best ways to access the care they need. In doing so we continue to see not only high satisfaction ratings but a shift in how TennCare members are appropriately receiving care when they need it the most."

Other highlights from this year's survey:

Approximately 42 percent of TennCare members obtained a doctor's appointment within one day, and 72 percent within a week. Only 11 percent reported waiting more than three weeks for an appointment, a record low for the second straight year.
Children covered by TennCare visit the doctor more frequently than the statewide average. Twenty percent of TennCare respondents said their children visited the doctor at least monthly, compared to 11 percent of all Tennessee households.
Ninety-three percent of all TennCare heads of household reported seeking care first at a doctor's office or clinic instead of going to the emergency room, while 96 percent of heads of household statewide reported the same behavior.

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