KNOXVILLE—The percentage of uninsured Tennesseans is at its lowest rate in a decade, according to a report released Monday by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
The report shows that 7.2 percent of Tennessee’s 6.5 million residents are uninsured, a 25 percent decrease from last year. The report also shows that 2.4 percent of children in the state are without insurance, a 35 percent decrease from last year.
The findings are included in “The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients 2014,” prepared by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research, or CBER. The report’s authors are Angela Thacker, CBER research associate, and LeAnn Luna, CBER associate professor.
The declines coincide with the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplace, which was put into place in early 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. The act also has had an impact on the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, which has experienced the third highest new enrollment in its 20-year history.
At the same time, TennCare continues to receive positive feedback from its recipients. Ninety-three percent said they are satisfied with the program and indicated TennCare is providing sufficient medical care and meeting the expectations of those it serves. This is the sixth year in a row that TennCare has received satisfaction ratings at or above 90 percent.
The purpose of the annual study is to determine the insurance status of Tennessee residents, collect information about their use of medical facilities, and gauge the extent of their satisfaction with services received.
The report examined why people remain uninsured and noted that the underlying reasons for a lack of insurance have changed little since TennCare was implemented in 1994.
“The major reason that people continue to report being uninsured is their perception that they cannot afford insurance,” the report states. “A notable change from the previous several years is that 12 percent of respondents reported that a major reason for not having insurance is that they do not need it, which is more than double the percentage from 2013.”
The report also looked at where TennCare recipients first go when they need medical attention—a doctor’s office, a clinic, or directly to a hospital.
Eight percent of TennCare participants reported seeking initial care at hospitals instead of doctors’ offices or clinics.
The survey, which interviewed about 5,000 heads of households by telephone between May and July 2014, is a regular follow-up to previous surveys conducted since 1993, the last year of Medicaid before the state adopted TennCare.
CBER conducted the survey under contract with the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration.
Read the report in its entirety at http://cber.bus.utk.edu/tncare/tncare14.pdf.