Thousands Of Tennesseans Stuck In Coverage Gap

Posted at 6:15 PM, Nov 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-21 20:03:00-05

An ongoing battle at the state Capitol has left hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans without healthcare. Lawmakers have been at odds over how to fix the problem, but those stuck in coverage gap are the ones paying the price.

Experts have said there are close to 280,000 people in Tennessee who don't qualify for TennCare, and are too poor to afford coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

One of those people is Betty Jarvis, who said she has run our of options.

"I don't know if I have hope anymore," said Jarvis.  

Betty first started singing at the age of 14. She has made multiple appearances with Minnie Pearl and performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
Earlier this year, she slipped and lost her balance at home, breaking multiple ribs and injuring her head. Then, because of her injuries she lost her job at a home improvement store. 
"I don't know that I have hope now, because nobody's going to hire me in the shape I'm in. I wouldn't hire me," said Jarvis.
The once proud woman said she is now broke and living out of her car, with no money and no insurance.
She said she needs to see a doctor, but can't pay for it.
"I'm broke, I'm sick, I can't get better," she saaid, holding back tears.
There are 280,000 other Tennesseans who are stuck in the same gap.
"I don't think it's right. They should do something. 280,00 that's a lot of people. That should never happen in America," she said.
Betty Jarvis has hardly been alone in her struggle.
Donny Rippy hasn't been able to work in years. He received serious brain damage after falling off his roof while making some repairs. The one-time construction worker said he wants to work, but can't because of his injuries. He has become stuck in an endless cycle he can't get out of.
"I'm stuck," Donny said.
"They've just kind of deserted him out here," said Donny's partner, Betty.
For the last few years, lawmakers in Tennessee have left nearly $1 billion in federal funds on the table that could help close the gap. Lawmakers are add odds over how best to address the issue.
"They really don't realize until something happens to somebody they know or to them," she said.
For Betty Jarvis, losing insurance has left her with little place else to turn.
"I had everything going for me. I had money in the bank, I had insurance. I had my own place. I'm just asking them to bridge the gap," she said.
For more information on how to receive help if you're stuck "Living in the Gap":