Impending Insurance Mandate Drives More Than Expected To TennCare

TennCare director Darin Gordon says state Medicaid programs figure 20 percent of those who are eligible for coverage just hadn't enrolled. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

TennCare director Darin Gordon says state Medicaid programs figure 20 percent of those who are eligible for coverage just hadn’t enrolled. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

People are flooding the state’s Medicaid program – known as TennCare. They’re trying to get coverage to avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. State officials were expecting people who were already eligible for government-funded health care to sign up – just not this many.

TennCare budgeted for between 45,000 and 50,000 new enrollees this year. The program surpassed those projections at the first of March. And the biggest rush may be on the horizon. The deadline to avoid a federal penalty comes at the end of the month.

It’s not like TennCare has been out recruiting as Medicaid programs in other states have. In fact, the agency has made getting coverage a bit harder for some by no longer allowing enrollments in-person, rerouting them to a website.

Still, director Darin Gordon says everyone who qualifies is welcome.

If individuals are eligible for our program, then that’s the purpose for what we’re here for. But obviously on the financial side of it, we have to make sure that we have planned accordingly and have the finances to support those who are seeking those services.

Gordon says the program may have to dip into its reserve fund to pay for all the new enrollees. TennCare has already proposed cutting how much it pays doctors in order to balance its books.

So far, the state has opted out of accepting federal money to expand TennCare. Gordon contends expansion would not make his budget problem go away.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.