The number of uninsured Tennesseans has dropped to its lowest total in four years, according to a University of Tennessee study released on Monday.
The purpose of UT's annual study is to find out how many people in the state are without health insurance, the use of the university's medical facilities and services and patient satisfaction.
The study reported that 9.2 percent of Tennesseans do not have health insurance this year. An estimated 577,813 people out of the state's 6.3 million residents don't have health insurance. This is the lowest total since 2008, and it's the lowest percentage of uninsured Tennesseans since 2005 as well.
The report also looked at where TennCare recipients go first when seeking medical attention. The study asked if recipients visited a doctor's office, clinic, or a hospital first.
According to UT's study, the number of TennCare patients going to a doctor's office first when seeking medical care has dropped compared to last year, falling from 80 to 75 percent. An increasing number of adults are now going to clinics and hospitals first for medical care, according to the study's findings.
TennCare is the state's expanded Medicaid program, which gives medical assistance for low-income children, pregnant women and disabled adults.
UT found that TennCare recipients reported high levels of satisfaction for program's level and quality of care. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they were "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied." According to the report, these satisfaction levels are consistent with ones in the last several years.
Researchers conducted a telephone survey between May and July 2012 for this study. The survey interviewed about 5,000 heads of households. This was a follow-up to previous surveys conducted since 1993, which was the last year before the state adopted TennCare.