A Profile of Tennessee’s Low-Wage Uninsured Workers

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) includes new large financial incentives for states to extend health insurance coverage to low-wage workers and other adults earning less than $17,775 a year.¹ These incentives apply to regular spending in a state’s Medicaid program and offer a five-percentage point across the board increase in the federal share for a 24-month period after the state extends coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that Tennessee’s budget would see a net gain of $900 million over a two-year period if the state expanded Medicaid.² Approximately 226,200 uninsured nonelderly adults, or 38 percent of the state’s uninsured adult population, would gain health insurance.³

This fact sheet examines which workers and industries would benefit from expansion of Medicaid coverage.The top three industry sectors employing low-wage uninsured workers are hospitality, retail, and construction, accounting for 43.3 percent of those working without insurance (see Table 1). Restaurants alone employ 15 percent of low wage uninsured workers. The most common jobs for low-wage uninsured workers in Tennessee are cooks, cashiers, laborers/movers, and janitors (see Table 2).



¹For more information on the provisions of the law, see E. Park and S. Corlette, “American Rescue Plan Act: Health Coverage Provisions Explained” (Washington DC: Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and Center on Health Insurance Reform, March 2021), available at https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2021/03/11/american-rescue-plan-act-health-coverage-provisions-explained/.
² R. Rudowitz, B. Corallo, and R. Garfield, “New Incentive for States to Adopt the ACA Medicaid Expansion: Implications for State Spending”(Washington DC: Kaiser Family Foundation, March 2021), available at https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/new-incentive-for-states-to-adopt-the-aca-medicaid-expansion-implications-for-state-spending/.
³ Kaiser Family Foundation, “Who Could Medicaid Reach with Expansion in Tennessee?” (Washington DC: Kaiser Family Foundation, February 2021), available at https://files.kff.org/attachment/fact-sheet-medicaid-expansion-TN.
4 All data are derived from the American Community Survey (2019). Most data come from the Public Use Microdata Sample; county data calculated from American Community Survey five-year (2015-2019) prepared tables. Contact authors for more information on sources of data and methods.

[See our full list of Low-Wage Uninsured Worker State Profiles here.]