Health

Tennessee Holds 'Healthcare Lottery' for the Uninsured

| by Michael Allen
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Twice a year, thousands of Tennesseans try to get healthcare by calling a telephone line, which shuts down after 2,500 calls.

This "healthcare lottery" is for people who do not qualify for Medicaid’s very low income requirements, but still face desperate financial conditions because of high medical bills.

To make it even tougher, uninsured applicants must either be elderly, blind or otherwise disabled, or the caretaker of a child who does qualify for Medicaid.

Many callers are hoping to qualify for state programs such as 'Spend Down,' which calculates an applicant’s qualifying income after subtracting medical costs from total earnings, reports the New York Times.

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Over a million people are already covered under TennCare, which is Medicaid in Tennessee, at a cost of $9 billion per year to the state and federal government.

In 2005, the state cut 170,000 state residents from TennCare due to high costs.

The Republican-Tea Party majority in the Tennessee legislature opposes Medicaid expansion for its citizens, which is part of Obamacare.

Kelly Gunderson, a TennCare spokeswoman, said that the Spend Down program had enough money to cover 3,500 people, but that only about 1,000 were enrolled at any given time because the screening process was so complicated.

The screeners must examine medical bills and records, and more. Only 500 people are found to be eligible for the program each time the state opens the phone line.

On March 22 the phone bank opened at 6 p.m., though calls did not begin to get through until 6:38 p.m. and the maximum of 2,500 calls was reached by 7:23 p.m., reports RT.com.

Sources: New York Times and RT.com