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Mon Mar 25, 2013, 06:48 AM

Tennessee health care lottery [View all]

Tennessee Race for Medicaid: Dial Fast and Try, Try Again

NASHVILLE — Two nights a year, Tennessee holds a health care lottery of sorts, giving the medically desperate a chance to get help.

State residents who have high medical bills but would not normally qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, can call a state phone line and request an application. But the window is tight — the line shuts down after 2,500 calls, typically within an hour — and the demand is so high that it is difficult to get through.

There are other hurdles, too. Applicants have to be elderly, blind, disabled or the “caretaker relative” of a child who qualifies for Medicaid, known here as TennCare. Their medical debt has to be high enough that if they paid it, their income would fall below a certain threshold. Not many people end up qualifying, but that does not stop thousands from trying.

“It’s like the Oklahoma land rush for an hour,” said Russell Overby, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society in Nashville. “We encourage people to use multiple phones and to dial and dial and dial.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/us/tennessee-holds-health-care-lottery-for-the-poor.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130325&_r=0


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