When Tennessee's healthcare exchange marketplace opens today, government estimates show the state will have some of the lowest insurance premiums in the country. And federal subsidies are expected to further lessen costs for the state’s low-income buyers. But Erin Hill, executive director of Knoxville Area Project Access says because Tennessee opted not to take Medicaid expansion, some buyers will be still be shut out.
"There’s still going to be a large population here in Tennessee that’s not going to be eligible for any type of subsidies to help lower their cost; they can participate in the marketplace but they’re going to have to pay full premium, which is not going to be reasonable to sign up for," she says.
Hill says while some of these patients would technically be eligible for TennCare, TennCare program limits exclude most patients.
"TennCare open enrollment is very limited," she says. "And so the open enrollment categories are things such as if you’re pregnant, if you have breast or cervical cancer or very extreme situations and so there are still going to be people falling in these categories that are not going to have access to care."
Hill says Knoxville Area Project Access opened in response to a 2005 TennCare roll reduction, so the group regularly assists patients who don't qualify under TennCare limits. She says KAPA is also a healthcare marketplace navigator for this region.