UT Study: Number of Uninsured Children Decreases, TennCare Satisfaction Remains High

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KNOXVILLE—The number of uninsured children in Tennessee has declined compared to last year, while the number of adults without insurance has remained the same, according to a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study released today.

Increased enrollment in TennCare, the state’s medical assistance program for low-income children, parents, pregnant women, and elderly and disabled adults, and CoverKids, a program that provides low-cost, comprehensive health coverage for children eighteen and younger, are possible reasons for this decrease, according to the study.

These findings are included in “The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients 2011,” prepared by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research. Bill Fox, CBER director, and William Hamblen, CBER research associate, authored the report.

The annual study found that 95 percent of TennCare recipients expressed continued satisfaction with the quality of care they received—the highest level since the inception of the program in 1994. The previous high was 94 percent in 2010.

Of the state’s 6.2 million people, an estimated 604,222—or 9.5 percent—state that they are uninsured. This is the lowest number since 2008 when the number of uninsured residents was 566,633.

The uninsured rate reported by survey respondents for their children is 2.4 percent this year, a drop from last year’s 3.9 percent. The rate for adults is 12 percent, the same as 2010.

The report examined why people don’t have insurance.

“The major reason that people report remaining uninsured is their perception that they cannot afford insurance,” the report states, noting that 88 percent of survey respondents cited this as a cause.

The study looked at where TennCare recipients initially seek medical care—whether a doctor’s office or an emergency room. It found a slight increase this year in the number of those seeking care at hospital emergency rooms. The number went from 7 percent to 8 percent.

The increase was greater when it came to respondents seeking care for their children, from 3 percent in 2010 to 9 percent this year.

“This is the highest share initially seeking care for their children at hospitals since 1994,” the report states. “A similar change has occurred over the past decade in the frequency of visits to physicians.

“TennCare recipients continue to see physicians on a more frequent basis than the average Tennessee household.”

The study concludes that since the beginning of TennCare, recipients have continued to see physicians more often, visit emergency rooms less for routine care, and are able to see a physician without excessive travel or waiting time, the reports concludes.

“TennCare recipients’ experience with medical care remains positive, with the quality of TennCare householders’ children’s medical care increasing substantially,” the report states.

The survey interviewed about 5,000 heads of households by telephone between May and July 2011. It is a regular follow-up to previous surveys conducted since 1993, the last year of Medicaid before TennCare was adopted.

The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration contracted with CBER to conduct the survey.

To read the report in its entirety, visit http://cber.utk.edu/.

C O N T A C T S :

Bill Fox (865-974-6112, billfox@utk.edu)

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lola.alapo@tennessee.edu)

 

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