Warren County is home to the highest percentage of people without health insurance in Tennessee, according to a recent release of federal statistics.
That news came from the top executive of Saint Thomas Health, the not-for-profit healthcare giant that has taken full ownership of McMinnville’s River Park Hospital.
Karen Springer, Saint Thomas president and CEO, pointed to Warren County’s chart-topping uninsured rate during a recent forum on healthcare policy in Murfreesboro. Public radio WCPI 91.3 recorded the event for local broadcast this week.
Springer was referring to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showing 20 percent of Warren County adults under the age of 65 have no health insurance. Several other counties, mostly rural, have rates of 19 percent, though Tennessee’s overall numbers of uninsured was trimmed by 2.7 percent in the early sign-up period in 2015 for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
“McMinnville has the highest uninsured rate right now,” Springer said.
While Saint Thomas is taking a major position in Middle Tennessee health services, many independent hospitals serving rural areas are squeezed between the burden of uncompensated care for uninsured patients and cutbacks in federal “safety net” reimbursements.
Five Tennessee hospitals have shut down since 2014 while others have cut services, terminating, for instance, inpatient operations while maintaining limited emergency rooms service. The state political leadership’s rejection of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is often cited as the main reason those facilities were forced to close while others struggle for economic survival.
The entire 75-minute forum will air on public radio WCPI 91.3 Tuesday at 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 p.m., and again Friday at 2:05 p.m.
Tennessee hospitals and health care providers are losing an estimated $500 million a year in federal ACA funds while 361,000 state residents remain excluded from coverage due to the legislature’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.