Tennessee Not Prepared for Affordable Care Act Enrollment

logoRev1Major health care changes are just around the corner but Tennessee is ill prepared for these changes.

Will the 180,000 uninsured Tennesseans be able to tap into new health insurance coverage through a TennCare expansion? Why is there virtually no publicity given to the new online health insurance marketplaces available to state residents in October? These are just a few important questions related to health care changes in Tennessee.

Tennessee Republican leaders have been vocal to criticize Obamacare but they have had nothing to prepare Tennessee consumers of the upcoming changes.

Recently, Gov. Bill Haslam announced a new statewide health initiative but he failed to mention the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on Tennesseans. He also failed to mention one of the largest health care dilemmas facing our state: whether to expand TennCare under his proposed “Tennessee Plan.”

Negotiations are ongoing with the federal government on Haslam’s proposal that will put $1 billion a year in federal Medicaid money toward getting uninsured adults to buy private insurance on the federal health insurance exchanges. It is unclear when the Governor will act, as a deadline to act, quickly approaches.

It is still unknown whether Tennessee’s online insurance marketplaces will be ready for Tennesseans by October. This is the mechanism that will provide Tennesseans to buy coverage for themselves or their families. This is an important aspect of the Affordable Care Act which requires every person to have health insurance or pay a fine.

Because leaders in Tennessee has left it to the federal government to set up and run the exchanges, rather than doing it themselves, Tennessee will received tens of millions of dollars less in funding for outreach and education about the exchanges. States that have chosen to run their own marketplaces have informational websites up and running while it is virtually impossible to find resources about the Tennessee marketplace.

Haslam said he decided to hand the marketplace over to the federal government based on a desire for an easier transition. Tennessee’s failure to implement the exchange themselves will hurt Tennesseans who will not know that they can benefit from the health care changes.

Across the state, as the Government has does nothing to prepare for the exchange, others including Insurance companies and health care providers are taking action to start enrollment education programs for Tennessee’s uninsured residents by launching informational ads and websites.

According to Walter Davis, director of the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, volunteers are sharing information across the state daily.

“Everywhere we go there’s a high degree of interest, Tennesseans want to know how it affects them personally. I think as we get closer, we’ll see a spike of interest.”

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