Obamacare May Usher More Patients Into TennCare Than First Thought

TennCare director Darin Gordon addressed the media after an annual budget hearing with Governor Bill Haslam. The state spends more on TennCare than any other single agency, and its budget is even more complicated as it manages losing some federal reimbursements under ObamaCare, cutting programs no longer needed and managing an influx of enrollments. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

TennCare director Darin Gordon addressed reporters after an annual budget hearing. The state spends more on TennCare than any other agency, and its budget is complicated by losing some federal reimbursements under ObamaCare, cutting programs no longer needed and managing new enrollments. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

As a result of Obamacare’s online insurance marketplace, more than 9,000 Tennesseans have been *redirected to the state’s Medicaid program known as TennCare. The agency expected a surge of signups, but it didn’t anticipate quite this many.

When insurance shoppers go on the troubled government website healthcare.gov, it first checks to see if they might already be eligible for TennCare and just haven’t enrolled yet. Roughly 50,000 Tennesseans were projected to start getting the subsidized insurance in the first year as part of what’s been dubbed the “woodwork effect.”

But TennCare is on pace to overshoot that number, says director Darin Gordon.

“If that were to continue, and if it was proven to be, everything checks out that there’s no duplication, the records are all clean, then that would be concerning for us.”

Gordon says he’s hoping there’s a glitch and that some people are merely being counted twice by trying to enroll both online and in person. At this point, he’s not upping the $76 million budgeted to cover all of the newcomers.

*A previous version incorrectly stated 9,000 people had enrolled in TennCare through the online insurance Marketplace since Oct 1. They have only been told they likely qualify for the state’s Medicaid program.

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