By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

Patient advocacy groups and health care providers released a poll showing wide voter support for the state’s use of federal Medicaid funds to cover uninsured Tennesseans.

A statewide poll of registered voters, conducted in April by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, included questions about voter attitudes regarding the use of federal funds to extend Medicaid. The poll revealed that three times as many (63 percent) Tennessee voters support expanding Medicaid as the number who are opposed (21 percent).

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The new data was unveiled at a press conference at Nashville General Hospital where a number of organizations joined together to express their common commitment to educating the public and political candidates about the importance of using the federal health funding. Participating organizations include Empower Tennessee, Family Voices of Tennessee, Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee, Nashville General Hospital, the National Association of Social Workers in Tennessee, the Rural Health Association of Tennessee, the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services, the Tennessee Charitable Care Network, the Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging, the Tennessee Disability Coalition, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Tennessee Justice Center.

“Health care issues, from hospital closings, to the opioid crisis, to rising health insurance premiums, are among Tennessee voters’ top concerns,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. “This poll confirms that Tennesseans of all backgrounds want to keep our federal tax dollars in the state where we can use them to address those concerns.”

In 2014, then-Rep. Jeremy Durham pushed through a bill blocking the governor from extending Medicaid (TennCare) to the uninsured. Every year since then, Tennessee has rejected $1.4 billion in federal Medicaid dollars to cover the uninsured “working poor.” The state continues to lose $3.8 million in such funding each day.

“The poll confirms just how badly out of touch the legislature is with the real life concerns and true wishes of ordinary Tennesseans,” Johnson said.

Rebecca Jolley, executive director of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee, noted that, for its size, Tennessee has lost more rural hospitals than any other state.

“Medicaid provides vitally needed support for rural and small town hospitals, clinics, drugstores and ambulance services,” Jolley said. “Our rural health system badly needs the additional revenues that Medicaid expansion would provide.”

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Poll shows Tennesseans support Medicaid expansion