Sen. London Lamar with her newborn on the first day of legislative session in 2024. Credit: Dawn Majors

Sen. London Lamar wants every child to get — and keep — health coverage

TennCare ‘continuous eligibility’ bill would improve health outcomes for children, reduce administrative costs

Tennessee Senate Democrats
2 min readFeb 9, 2024

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NASHVILLE — Access to health care can influence a child’s physical and mental health as well as their long-term growth and development. But, unfortunately, in Tennessee, there are still a significant number of children who lack health insurance.

According to the Kid’s Health Care Report Card, 5.3% of Tennessee children are uninsured, and, of those children who lack insurance, the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth estimates that two-thirds are eligible for one of the state’s youth insurance programs, TennCare or CoverKids.

To get more Tennessee kids covered and keep them insured, state Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, is proposing legislation to implement continuous eligibility for all children on TennCare and CoverKids through age 17.

“Our families and our state are stronger when every child has access to health care,” said Sen. Lamar. “When children get the health care they need, they are more likely to succeed in school, graduate from high school and attend college, earn higher wages, and grow up into healthy adults.

“That’s what every Tennessean should want for our kids,” Sen. Lamar said.

Sen. Lamar says the continuous eligibility bill would solve a major problem: Children losing their state health coverage due to procedural reasons — not eligibility. According to the Commission on Children and Youth the vast majority of children who lose state health insurance were bumped from coverage due to paperwork issues.

Under Senate Bill 1828, by Sen. Lamar and Rep. Antonio Parkinson, children under age 18 who have coverage through TennCare or CoverKids would be automatically renewed.

There are some exceptions, such as a parent requesting disenrollment, a family moves from the state or fraud.

The program would require approval from the federal government, but multi-year continuous eligibility is in place in two states. The Commission on Children and Youth says six states have a program in development while four others have introduced legislation or debated a waiver.

Though subject to change, the bill is currently scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

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Tennessee Senate Democrats

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly