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KNOXVILLE — TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program offering medical assistance for low-income children, pregnant women and disabled adults, received its highest satisfaction score to date from its recipients. Those are some of the findings in “The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients 2010” recently released by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Ninety-four percent of TennCare recipients are satisfied with the program, which is a 2-point increase over last year and a 33-point increase from the program’s first year in 1994.

According to the study, there are an estimated 618,445 uninsured people in the state, compared to 616,967 in 2009. This represents a tenth-of-a-point decrease in the number of overall uninsured Tennesseans in 2010, though the difference is not statistically significant. According to the report, the uninsured rate for children is 3.9 percent, while the uninsured rate for adults is 12 percent.

Ninety-one percent of respondents cited an inability to pay as the reason why they did not have insurance — a sharp rise of 9 points from 2005 but a 1-point drop from 2009.

Ratings for medical care quality remain high with about two-thirds of heads of households rating their care “good” or “excellent” and almost 90 percent rating their children’s care “good” or “excellent.” The study also looks at where TennCare recipients seek initial medical care — the doctor’s office or the hospital emergency room. It shows since the beginning of TennCare, program recipients have continued to see physicians more often and visit emergency rooms less for routine care. TennCare recipients also continue to be able to see physicians more often without excessive travel or waiting time.

In summary, the report gives TennCare a positive review: “The survey reveals that from the perspective of the recipients, the TennCare program continues to work as expected … TennCare continues to receive positive feedback from its recipients, indicating the program is providing health care in a satisfactory manner and up to the expectations of those it serves.”

The study was done by Bill Fox, CBER director and economics professor, and William Hamblen, research associate. The state Department of Finance and Administration contracted with CBER to survey TennCare recipients. This survey is a regular follow-up to previous surveys conducted since 1993, the year prior to TennCare’s inception.

The survey interviewed approximately 5,000 heads of household by telephone between May and July 2010. To review the entire survey, visit


Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,