The Look in Brief

As COVID-19 emergency orders end, more than 31,000 lose TennCare coverage

By: - July 10, 2023 6:01 am
The need for healthcare workers is not expected to lag, analysts say. Shown here is a nurse in the emergency room at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown, Maryland. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

More than 31,000 Tennesseans have lost health care coverage as the state’s safety net insurance program winds down from the COVID public health emergency.

An “unwinding report” obtained by the Tennessee Lookout documents that, as of April, slightly more than 80,000 people were eligible to have TennCare coverage renewed.

Of those, more than 21,500 failed to return the required renewal information, while 7,383 responded and were deemed ineligible. An additional 5,300 people were asked for additional information by TennCare

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government temporarily prohibited the Tennessee from requiring annual renewals and removing program participants, allowing TennCare participants to continue to receive coverage. The agency said the policy bumped up membership by 25%.


Tennessee is one of nine states that have declined to accept an expansion of Medicaid programs permitted under the Affordable Care Act, leaving 124,000 individuals without health insurance and leaving about $1.4 billion of federal money uncollected by the state.

A June 2023 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 20% of Tennesseans receive coverage under TennCare and 42% of non-elderly Medicaid recipients are people of color, while 46% of births in Tennessee are covered by Medicaid.

The KFF report shows 76% of Tennesseans, including 65% who identify as Republicans, hold favorable views of Medicaid.

“It’s equally maddening and cruel that Republicans have chosen to unnecessarily cut healthcare from needy Tennesseans versus expand Medicaid,” said state Rep. Caleb Hemmer, D-Nashville. “As one of the nine states that refuses Medicaid expansion, we will continue to see our hard-earned tax dollars fund healthcare in other states while we close hospitals and see our health outcomes suffer if we continue on this unconscionable path.”

Those persons who have lost TennCare coverage may reapply at any time.

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J. Holly McCall
J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.