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One Million Uninsured in TN - Collateral Damage Personal Stories

April 24, 2007

Nashville, TN - A movie about Tennessee is showing this month all around the state, and it's not a feel good movie with a happy ending. It's a documentary about health care, and it follows folks who were suddenly dropped from TennCare coverage two years ago. Film producer Julie Winokur says the stories are about working families, including one couple dropped from TennCare at a medically-sensitive time when the woman had end-stage liver failure.

“A liver became available. She went to the hospital. She was prepped for surgery, and the doctor came in and said, 'I'm sorry, we're not going to give you the liver because you don't have any insurance. We're going to give it to someone else.'”

At least 225,000 Tennesseans have lost health coverage because of TennCare restrictions. Winokur thinks every one of them has a health story that needs to be investigated by public leaders. TennCare health care cuts were promoted as a budget necessity, although the state's own numbers show taxpayers are spending more today for public health care than before the TennCare cuts.

She believes it's important to tell personal stories to make a connection between laws and effects.

“The people who are making policy decisions tend to be at a bird's eye view. So, they forget about the human impact of policies, and the human impact of budgetary decisions.”

Winokur adds that most people without health insurance in Tennessee are working full-time, which is something that used to be a guarantee of coverage.

“They've worked hard, they've tried to save, they've raised their family, and yet they cannot afford health insurance. They aren't poor enough for Medicaid, and not rich enough to buy health insurance.”

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - TN