UT Study: Number of Uninsured Tennesseans Down, Most Express Satisfaction with TennCare

KNOXVILLE — The number of Tennesseans without health insurance declined for the second year in a row, and the satisfaction of people with TennCare remained high.

Those findings are included in “The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients 2008” released today by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The study also found a slight increase in the number of TennCare recipients seeking medical help in emergency rooms compared to last year, but that rate matched the second lowest in the history of the study.

“TennCare continues to receive positive feedback from its recipients, indicating the program is providing health care in a satisfactory manner and up to the expectations of those it serves,” said Bill Fox, professor of economics and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research.

The estimated number of uninsured Tennesseans dipped to 566,633 or about 9.3 percent of the population. Last year’s estimates were 608,234 or 10 percent. The study noted continued growth of CoverTN, a state health care program launched in 2007, as a reason for the decline. However, 9.3 percent is high compared to the earlier years of TennCare when the numbers were around 6 percent.

There was little change from last year in TennCare enrollees’ opinion of the program’s quality of care. About two-thirds of heads of households rated their care as “good” or “excellent,” and more than three-fourths rated their children’s care in the same categories.

In regard to seeking medical care, the number of TennCare heads of household using emergency rooms was barely higher than last year, but it is still dramatically lower than usage at the start of TennCare in 1994. The same trend exists for children’s use of emergency rooms. Enrollees mainly seek medical care at a doctor’s office.

Over the past decade, TennCare recipients have visited doctors more often than under Medicaid or the average household in Tennessee. The numbers this year were similar to last year.

The state Department of Finance and Administration contracted with the UT Center for Business and Economic Research to conduct the survey. This survey is a regular follow-up to previous surveys conducted since 1993, the last year of Medicaid before TennCare was adopted.

The survey interviewed 5,000 heads of households by telephone between April and June 2008.

To review the entire survey, visit http://cber.bus.utk.edu/.


Contact:

Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179, elizabeth.davis@tennessee.edu