More than half of the people who would obtain health coverage if Tennessee expanded Medicaid work jobs, according to a report by Families USA.
They serve food, build houses, clean offices, stand behind cash registers and drive school buses. The report breaks down their number by employment sectors. In total, they account for 54 percent of the 418,000 uninsured Tennesseans who would qualify for TennCare if the state expanded Medicaid, according to the report.
"It is so important for people and policymakers to understand that the people harmed by the coverage gap are working people," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "They are not people who are looking for handouts, or welfare recipients."
Pollack said he hopes Republican governors and legislatures in the South will make the same decisions as other states controlled by the GOP in regard to Medicaid expansion.
"There are now eight states that have Republican governors who opposed the Affordable Care Act who decided to expand coverage," he said. "It provides a sense of hope that this should not break down purely on partisan lines. The states that I am referring to are Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa and New Jersey."
And he said negotiations are under way in Pennsylvania and Indiana about expanding Medicaid there. The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs of insuring new people brought onto state Medicaid rolls through 2016. It then phases down to a permanent 90 percent matching rate in 2020.
Pollack, who is in Nashville this week for a daylong workshop tied to the 25th anniversary of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, said another study his organization commissioned determined that 21,900 direct and indirect jobs would be created if Tennessee expanded Medicaid.
Although the legislature and Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law limiting the authority of Tennessee's governor to expand Medicaid, Pollack said he hopes they can be convinced to come up with a plan to keep people from falling through the coverage gaps.
"It is possible that Gov. Haslam and some of the people he has been working with in the state legislature may be more comfortable after November to put a proposal forward," Pollack said. "And I hope he does."
Working Without Health Coverage
These employment sectors have the largest number of uninsured workers who would qualify for TennCare if Tennessee expanded its Medicaid program.
Food service: 34,000
Cleaning and maintenance: 26,000
Office and administrative support: 21,000
Personal care and support: 11,000
— Families USA
Who could get coverage if Tennessee expanded TennCare:
One-person household: Income below $16,105
Two-person household: Income below $21,707
Family of three: Income below $27,310
Family of four: Income below $32,913
— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services