Critics have long been concerned of unforeseen costs of expanding Medicaid in the state. At an event Monday, health advocacy group representatives disagreed, claiming lawmakers should take note of new poll numbers in Tennessee.

"We know from recent polls that healthcare issues are the number one concern for Tennessee voters," Michele Johnson of the Tennessee Justice Center said to a crowd outside Metro General.

"The new Mason-Dixon poll shows the legislature is badly out of touch with ordinary Tennesseans," she continued. "63% of Tennesseans support Medicaid expansion. Only 21% oppose using those federal funds. In other words, it's three to one support."

The poll claimed the rest of the voters were undecided.

In 2014, Governor Bill Haslam first announced plans that became known as Insure Tennessee, a proposal he said would cover Tennesseans in a coverage gap.

"For four years, the legislature has blocked Governor Haslam's efforts to use federal funds to cover uninsured Tennesseans," Johnson told the crowd.

Johnson was joined Monday by several religious leaders and representatives from Metro General, Rural Health Association of Tennessee, Tennessee Charitable Care Network, Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services, Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging, National Association of Social Workers in Tennessee, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, the Tennessee Disability Coalition, Family Voices of Tennessee and Empower Tennessee.

"It's hard to look at people in the face and tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they can't afford boots," said Rebecca Jolley of Rural Health Association of Tennessee.

Jolley said 18 to 22% of people in rural Tennessee communities are uninsured. She said that's not the only problem they face.

"We have seen eight hospital closures in the recent past," she said. "Travel times increase for everyone. For people in cases of emergency, it can be a matter of life and death literally. If you want to see a small town not thrive, close its hospital. We have a lot more in peril of closing. A lot of our rural hospitals are surviving on bare bones, negative margins."

A rep for Gov. Haslam said a regularly scheduled meeting with some house and senate leaders was held last month where matters surrounding Medicaid were discussed. The rep said there was no proposal to come from that meeting, and there is no plan for a special session to discuss it.

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