NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Tennesseans went into the pandemic with one of the largest medical debt loads in the country. Twenty percent of all Tennesseans had some type of medical debt, and 25 percent of people with color carried debt.
With federal money drying up thanks to an impasse between President Trump and Congress, the state is running out of money to subsidize care for people that lost their insurance and need hospitalization for COVID-19.
Ironically, this can bankrupt the state’s hospitals too because they end up providing more free care to people without insurance. Maury Regional CEO Alan Watson foresaw this issue back in May, saying, “Last year we provided over $14 million in free care. I expect that to go up over the next 12 months.”
TennCare originally asked for more than $100 million to cover COVID-19 care for Tennesseans, and the federal government approved a large sum for doing so, but while the House of Representatives passed a second stimulus package in May, the President and Senate have failed to pass any compromise of their own.
The flow chart below shows how medical debt can accrue even for someone with insurance.
The pandemic is a shock to the employer-based health care system. The Sycamore Institute estimates there are an additional 120,000 uninsured Tennesseans, and 356,000 lost their employer-based care.