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New Plan Offers New Hope to Close Health-Coverage Gap in TN

The new plan from the 3-Star Health Task Force will help close the coverage gap in Tennessee, if the plan is passed by the State Assembly and signed by the governor. (health care/flickr.com)
The new plan from the 3-Star Health Task Force will help close the coverage gap in Tennessee, if the plan is passed by the State Assembly and signed by the governor. (health care/flickr.com)
July 5, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There is new hope for the 280,000 Tennesseans currently in the coverage gap - making too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford insurance on their own through the Health Exchange. The state's 3-Star Health Task Force released its plan late last week to use a two-phase approach to close the gap over the next 12 to 18 months.

Michele Johnson, executive director with the Tennessee Justice Center, said this isn't just a potential win for the uninsured; it's making sure the state is benefiting from the federal tax dollars its citizens have contributed since the Affordable Care Act was enacted.

"If you take them at their word, this could mean that we could receive the federal dollars that we've paid in the next couple years, and it would really mean stabilizing our health-care infrastructure," she said.

The plan would offer mental-health coverage to Tennesseans living under 138 percent of the federal poverty line in the first phase, and offer everyone in that group full coverage in phase two. Supporters of the plan are encouraging citizens to contact their state representatives and senators to urge them to support the plan.

Johnson said now that the plan is released, the next few months are crucial to its success.

"We're going to really need in the coming weeks to make sure they all do have an idea about it and they all have an idea about making it happen, while we continue to pay for their health insurance," she added. "They need to, like the task force members, roll up their sleeves and get this done."

Johnson said while the Tennessee Justice Center supports the plan, for the last three years Tennesseans could have had access to health coverage but have not, and rural hospitals are struggling to remain open.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN