Since 2016, Tennessee Has Dropped Insurance for Over 100,000 Children


August 7, 2019

Since 2016, Tennessee Has Dropped Insurance for Over 100,000 Children

Tennessee parents are discovering that their children may have been dropped from two state government insurance programs in the Volunteer State: TennCare and CoverKids. It’s estimated that at least 128,000 children were removed from the programs over the past three years and many of them have been unable to acquire private insurance. This has increased the uninsured rate in a state that already ranks as one of the least healthy in the country.

Pruning Due to Swelling Enrollment

State officials explained that much of the cuts were due to “pruning” after many years of allowing the program to grow unfettered. The children cut were either no longer eligible or mandatory renewal forms were not received by the state, officials said. The renewal forms were sent via postal mail over the past three years and TennCare officials say that many of those who were removed from the program failed to return them, although they were unsure how many were cut due to the lack of paperwork.

Difficulty for Poor Families

The two health insurance programs are designed for low-income children, and experts are saying that some of them have lost coverage without notification. This means that parents are unaware that their child is no longer covered until they seek medical treatment. Some medical professionals claim that many disenrollments are in error, citing procedural problems within TennCare. Officials deny the claim, stating that although humans process the renewals and occasionally make mistakes, the errors are not systematic.

From December 2016 through January 2019, one in every eight children was removed from TennCare. Disenrollment also appears to be increasing. An additional 52,000 children were removed in February 2019, the largest removal since the process began. 

When confronted with the data, which appeared online, TennCare removed the information, stating it was incorrect and that there had not been historic cuts in February. Although they have promised corrected data, none has been released.

Not Enough Notification

Families in these situations are learning their child has been removed from the insurance plans when they attempt to get treatment for their child. Pediatricians and emergency room physicians are reporting that at least once a week, they encounter another child who has lost coverage whose parents were unaware. This is especially true in areas with a large immigrant population. Many healthcare providers are saying that the state is not doing enough to notify parents about the disenrollments. Some families are finding it difficult to be reinstated.

TennCare is Tennessee’s state-run Medicaid program and provides care for some of the state’s poorest citizens. Eligibility for the program is extremely complicated but tends to be generous with children. Families who live close to or below poverty level are normally eligible. Those who are not eligible for TennCare may enroll in CoverKids, a smaller program for children only whose families are at 250 percent or below the poverty level.