TennCare Study Shows Slight Increase in Uninsured Tennesseans

November 28, 2023

The number of uninsured Tennesseans increased slightly in 2023, according to a new study by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research housed in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.

The Impact of TennCare: A Survey of Recipients, 2023 — the new study co-authored by LeAnn Luna, Jan R. Williams Professor of Accounting, and Alex Norwood, Boyd Center research associate — found that the percentage of uninsured Tennesseans rose by about 19,800 individuals, from 7.5% in 2022 to 7.7% this year. The number of uninsured children increased by 3,565 this year, but the uninsured rate for children remains low at 2.5%, up from 2.3% in 2022. The number of uninsured adults increased by 16,238, from 9% in 2022 to 9.1% in 2023.

Percentage of Uninsured Tennesseans, by Year

Graph reflecting data from the Boyd Center's latest study.

Positive Responses for Quality of Care, Satisfaction

For the first time in the survey’s history, people who reported using TennCare this year were equally or more satisfied with their quality of care than those covered by other insurance plans. Seventy-seven percent of TennCare respondents stated that their quality of care was good or excellent, and 86% responded that the quality of care for children was also good or excellent.

Overall satisfaction with the TennCare program has remained over 90% for 15 years straight. Ninety-five percent of respondents in the latest survey reported they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the TennCare program overall.

“The record high satisfaction rate from TennCare members continues to reflect our state’s commitment to the agency’s mission of improving lives through high-quality, cost-effective care,” said Stephen Smith, TennCare director. “And whether measured by the quality component of our mission or the cost-effective component, through the work of many over two decades, never has TennCare been more successful than it is today.”

Affordability Concerns Cited

The Boyd Center’s latest study examines the health coverage status of Tennessee residents, the use of medical facilities and satisfaction with medical services received based on a telephone and online survey of approximately 5,000 households conducted between May and July.

Approximately 39% of TennCare households were able to see a doctor within one day of making an appointment, and 69% were able to see a doctor within a week. Affordability continues to be the most commonly cited reason for failing to obtain health insurance in 2023, with 85% of respondents listing it as a major or minor reason for Tennesseans not obtaining coverage. Households with incomes of $40,000 or higher saw the biggest increase among those who were unable to afford insurance.

Only 12% of TennCare users sought nonemergency health care outside their plan in 2023, down from 14% in 2022. Five percent of survey respondents reported they had sought care outside the TennCare program because the service they needed was unavailable, 2% said there was no TennCare provider in the area and 3% had mistakenly made an appointment with a provider who did not accept TennCare. Nearly half of all respondents said TennCare helped them find a provider that was within their plan.

About the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research

The Boyd Center, located within UT’s Haslam College of Business, has conducted the survey each year since 1993 under contract with the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration.


Cindi King (865-974-0937, cking126@utk.edu)

Erin Hatfield (865-974-6086, ehatfie1@utk.edu)