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Readout of a Tennessee Virtual Panel on Health Care Access

Yesterday afternoon, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra participated in virtual roundtable to thank and encourage organizations helping Tennesseans gain health coverage ahead of the January 15th deadline to sign up for a plan on HealthCare.gov or Medicaid. Tennessee has an uninsured rate that’s above the national average and saw significant coverage declines in previous years.

Secretary Becerra touted the fact that over 250,000 Tennesseans have already gained coverage during the 2022 Open Enrollment Period with two days to go, and urged more to enroll on Healthcare.gov. Secretary Becerra also underscored the opportunities Congress have to further strengthen health coverage gains, not just for Tennesseans but Americans nationwide through passage of Build Back Better.

The roundtable addressed various topics, such as effective outreach efforts to get more Tennesseans covered and the important role trust plays in certain underserved communities like immigrant communities. Faith-based leaders for example, have been instrumental in community outreach efforts to help Tennesseans gain health care access. Participants included people from non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, rural health clinics, such as those below:

  • Family & Children’s Service
  • Neighborhood Health
  • Muslim Society of Memphis
  • Tennessee Justice Center
  • Tennessee Primary Care Association
  • Appalachian Mountain Project Access

Efforts that are working well include telehealth, where flip phones have helped to improve access to care for vulnerable communities like those served in rural areas by the Appalachian Mountain Project Access and urbanites served through the Muslim Society of Memphis.

A top priority for the group, according to participants, is continuing the work to be accessible, and reaching Tennesseans where they are to enroll them in coverage. They highlighted the importance of consistent, reliable Navigator funding to remain operational. Participants noted that distrust develop in communities when Navigators are suddenly shut over funding reasons and trusted relationships are severed.

Ahead on the 2022 Open Enrollment Period, the Biden-Harris Administration announced it would quadruple the number of Navigators and awarded $80 million to over 1,500 navigators including $2.4 million to Family & Children’s Service in Tennessee.

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