Thousands of TN residents considered 'too poor' - WSMV News 4

Thousands of TN residents considered 'too poor' for health assistance

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The latest figures show eight out of 10 Tennesseans who signed up for the federal health insurance exchange got help paying their premiums from the government because of their low-income status.

Still, many of the state's poorest can't get any help at all. Approximately 161,000 Tennesseans are considered simply too poor to qualify.

Sandi Hall can't afford health insurance on her monthly disability check and doesn't qualify for help under the Affordable Care Act because she is too poor.

"That makes absolutely no sense to me," she said.

Hall is fortunate that charities help pay for her medicines, which run nearly $1,000 a month.

Tennessee is one of several states that chose not to expand its Medicaid program, and a group of Democratic legislatures said Thursday that's wrong.

"Tennesseans can no longer wait for Gov. [Bill] Haslam to find political cover to expand Medicaid," said State Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville.

The deadline to sign up for Obamacare coverage is March 31, and government figures show that about 78,000 Tennesseans have signed up.

The program is helping people like songwriter Amy Speace.

"I had laryngitis, which doesn't sound like a big deal, unless you're a singer," she said.

Speace is paying about $30 a month for insurance, while the rest of her premium is covered by a federal subsidy.

But to qualify for the program, people have to have an income of about $12,000 a year.

That leaves Hall, and thousands of others, simply unable to get help.

"There are a lot of us out here, unprotected," she said.

According to government figures, Tennesseans who were able to enroll in the health care exchange got subsidies worth about $2,000 each. That's slightly less than the national average.

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