SPLC lawsuit against Tennessee for health care coverage deprivat - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

SPLC lawsuit against Tennessee for health care coverage deprivation

April and Rick Reynolds (Source: splcenter.org) April and Rick Reynolds (Source: splcenter.org)
TENNESSEE (WAFF) - A mother of three in Tennessee almost died after putting off a hospital visit because of state policies that have deprived thousand of people like her coverage they need even though they are eligible.

Earlier this year, April Reynolds was in the hospital because of a high blood pressure episode. Doctors said she could have died if she had waited any longer to seek medical treatment. 

She had put off going to the hospital because she didn't have a way to pay for treatment.

Reynolds now owes $20,000 in medical bills and needs monthly checkups. She has only been to the doctor once since her episode because she does not want to accrue more debt. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit against Tennessee for adopting policies that break its decades-old promise of health care to Reynolds and other residents.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. These problems make Tennessee the worst state in the nation for fulfilling its Medicaid obligations, according to www.splcenter.org.

According to the lawsuit, the state has violated federal law by discontinuing in-person help for applicants to its Medicaid program, TennCare. Instead, Tennessee forces applicants to apply for TennCare through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace website, which was not designed for this purpose, causing some residents to go without health care. 

The state has also stopped accepting TennCare applications in person. 

"I have to worry every day about how my blood pressure is doing, which just escalates the problem," said Reynolds.

The state is also arbitrarily terminating coverage for newborns after they are carried out the hospital door, which is a violation of regulations governing its state child health plan. Many newborns are now left without medical coverage during one of the most critical periods of their lives. 

One child's parents can't afford monthly shots needed for their premature baby. 

The changes that have deprived residents of coverage began in the fall of 2013 when the state ended in-person assistance for residents applying for TennCare. The state decided to make the federal Health Insurance Marketplace website the only means for applying for TennCare, which left many residents without coverage since the site cannot determine eligibility for individuals falling within certain categories. 

Reynolds hopes the lawsuit will make the state live up to its promise to provide residents with the health care they need. 

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