More Than a Decade After Passage of Federal Health Care Law, State Still Stands in the Way of Tennesseans Access to Affordable Health Coverage

Today marks 12 years since the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act.

March 23, 2022

NASHVILLE, TENN.  – Today marks 12 years since the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act. Yet, around 300,000 Tennesseans remain uninsured, denied coverage by state lawmakers who refuse to increase access to Medicaid.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine if you live – unfortunately, in Tennessee, it does,” said Emily Ogden, government relations director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Everyone deserves a fair and equitable chance to fight cancer, manage chronic illnesses and maintain their health. Medicaid makes that possible – but by denying Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of state residents, lawmakers are denying them this basic human right.”

Tennessee is one of only 12 states that has not increased access to health insurance coverage through their Medicaid programs despite overwhelming evidence that doing so would improve health outcomes, reduce health disparities and benefit the state’s economy. Last year, the state implemented the TennCare III waiver, which caps the federal funds available to the state to run Tennessee's TennCare program. Implementation of this policy could reduce TennCare enrollees' access to lifesaving care, including cancer treatments.

Recent research from the American Cancer Society has found in states that have expanded access to Medicaid coverage, early-stage diagnoses increased, particularly among rural and Black patients; Medicaid expansion was associated with a greater increase in one-year overall survival rates, especially in the poorest areas of states; and higher Medicaid income eligibility limits were associated with better long-term survival, consistent across a variety of cancers and for patients with both early and late stage diagnosis.

“Refusing to increase access to Medicaid coverage is purely political posturing and it’s putting individuals’ lives at stake,” said Ogden. “The benefits of extending eligibility limits for low-income individuals through Medicaid are clear and it’s time lawmakers take this long-overdue step to close the coverage gap. No one should suffer a day without the health care coverage they need and deserve.”

ACS CAN will continue working with state lawmakers to increase access to Medicaid until the job is done. This year alone, 42,200 Tennesseans will hear the words ‘you have cancer.’ Those who are uninsured can’t wait any longer for coverage.


About ACS CAN at 20
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that saves lives. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and made workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers and save more lives from cancer. Join the fight by visiting

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