Study: Many Tennesseans Can't Afford Doctor Visits

May 9, 2012

A recent study shows a large percentage of Tennesseans didn't see a doctor over the last decade because they couldn't afford to.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute conducted the study which surveyed around 850,000 Tennesseans between the ages of 19 and 64. The Commercial Appeal reports 55.6 percent of uninsured Tennesseans skipped a doctor visit in 2010 because they didn't have the money and 12.6 percent of those with insurance did the same. 

The study did not offer any reasons for increases in unmet medical need in any state. But Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of Nashville's Tennessee Justice Center, said they are directly linked to TennCare cuts.

"We went, in 2000, from having very broad coverage in TennCare in terms of eligibility and benefits to being one of the most restrictive states in the country in terms of eligibility and what we cover," said Bonnyman.

The study said the potential benefits of the Affordable Care Act could be "large and exist in every state." However, Zuckerman said the report was not a policy paper supporting the health reform law.

The study also found that nearly 10 percent fewer Tennesseans had a dental visit over the decade. However, the amount of those who had a routine health checkup stayed about the same.