Thom Throp is a Kingsport insurance agent who's sold over sixty Affordable Care Act plans.
Like thousands of others, he logged on with great interest to read a story from The Tennessean newspaper about a Maryville couple forced to separate after 33 years of marriage so the wife could keep health insurance.
"We are in a situation in trying to get as many people covered as possible. People are falling in the proverbial crack," Throp said.
Six months into the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, the Maryville couple is among 162,000 Tennesseans who got caught in the coverage crack. "I'm very concerned that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, will collapse under its own weight," said Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey. "I don't think it's designed the way it'll work."
Larry and Linda Drain also have eligibility shortfalls with Social Security early retirement, SSI, TennCare and Medicaid.
Expanding Tennessee's Medicaid program has been discussed, but the state hasn't done it yet. "Thus, there is a hole where people with that certain income are not going to get help in any direction whatsoever," Throp said. "And they're going to be the habitually uninsured."
"I do think in the end Medicaid expansion would have to be paid for by the taxpayers of Tennessee, and we couldn't afford it," Ramsey said.
So if expanding Medicaid isn't the answer, then what is? Throp tells us, even in a tight economy, that couples like the Drains may just have to find more income. "This is going to sound somewhat crass but, short-term, they're going to have to make more money," Throp said.
"We all want to make sure people have proper healthcare and this isn't a healthcare problem," Ramsey said. "Everybody gets healthcare. It's just a matter of who pays for it."
"It's awful in that trying to make healthcare, health insurance more accessible to people, it's causing them to break up 33-year-old marriages," Throp said. "It's awful."