Loss of CoverTN Could Affect Thousands

Nov 26, 2013

Credit CoverTN

At the end of this year, more than 15,000 Tennesseans will likely lose their health insurance through a state-run program.

CoverTN provides limited-benefit health coverage geared toward low-income families and small businesses. And on December 31, it's expected to go away. The program doesn't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, so unless there's a change of heart -- and policy -- from federal officials, about 15,400 CoverTN customers will have less four weeks to find new health insurance policies if they don't want a lapse in coverage next year.

CoverTN's limited benefits hurt its chances for survival, TennCare commissioner Darin Gordon told state lawmakers last week.

“[Federal authorities] won't continue to grant waivers for programs that had limited coverage whether it be an annual dollar limit or an individual limits for particular services,” Gordon said.

The task of finding new coverage is complicated by the problematic healthcare.gov website. Fewer than a thousand Tennesseans were able to register for coverage in the first month of the website's existence.

Though an extension of CoverTN appears unlikely, TennCare officials said it's not dead quite yet. TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said there could still be new instructions from Washington that could forestall the CoverTN shutdown, much in the same way private insurers were allowed to extend policies into 2014.

"It may be that we can continue coverage and it may be we can't, because we don't know what's in the policy," Gunderson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "It's still up in the air."