NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Nearly one in five people in Davidson County are going without health insurance and new numbers reveal that it's a similar situation around the state.
Data from the US Census office reported that nearly one in six Tennesseans, under the age of 65 don't have health care. Since 2008, in every Tennessee county, the problem grown by about 14%.
"In Davidson County we saw an increase in the uninsured, and now the uninsured rate in Davidson County is now like almost 20%, so almost one in 5 residents in Davidson County are now uninsured," said Brad Palmertree with the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
Advocacy groups like the Tennessee Health Care Campaign believe many uninsured are without insurance for the first time because of job loss and tough economic times over the past few years.
"We get a lot of people who have been locked out of the system. Either it's from affordability issues where they have a pre-existing condition and they can't get insurance on the private market without an employer," said Palmertree.
The Census findings come as Tennessee and other states figure out if they will expand Medicaid programs as part of Health Care Reform.Advocacy groups point to the rising number of uninsured as a reason why it has to happen, and there's the belief health care reform cannot wait until 2014. In the meantime safety net programs that cover the uninsured are having a hard time keeping up.
Thousands will jam the phone lines - trying to qualify for TennCare, specifically their Standard Spend down programs when they open for limited enrollment September 13, 2012.
"That's something that may be an option for a lot of people if they are uninsured and if they have high medical debt over the next few months - they can actually spend down their income to qualify for that certain program," said Palmertree.
If the Medicaid program is expanded in Tennessee it's estimated 300,000 more Tennesseans would get coverage. The state would have to pay more than a billion dollar for that coverage over 5 years, but the feds would chip in $11 billion dollars.