SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell warned that millions of dollars in state reimbursements for uninsured patients could disappear if the Insure Tennessee plan does not pass in the state legislature. The bill was killed on Wednesday afternoon.
"We're looking at upwards of a 10 percent property tax increase, if we have to go the property tax route to fill that hole," Luttrell said.
While some taxpayers urged state lawmakers to pass the plan, others were asking them to do it with caution.
"In terms of who it's going to and how it will really be given and are there really enough physicians, doctors, nurses to take care of people in the community?" asked Shelby County resident Cathy Chapman.
Luttrell says 1/3 of the 200,000 people eligible for Insure Tennessee live in Shelby County.
Combined, Baptist, Methodist, Regional One Health and St. Francis lose $250 million annually. And a UT study projects a $1.5 billion loss statewide.
In addition to the warning about a possible property tax increase, Luttrell also made a big education announcement.
"From this new grant, we will be able to expand our pre-kindergarten program by 1,400 seats," he explained, adding that a mixture of efficiencies and grants will allow the county to serve a total of 6,000 3- and 4-year-olds.
"I sent mine to pre-k. I think it's very important. It gives them a head start," said Judith Dickey.
The mayor is also dedicated to getting the workforce up to standards.
"In 2013, the chamber of commerce says we have 18,000 jobs unfilled in Shelby County and our unemployment rate was 8 percent. The problem we have is not jobs. The problem we have is people to fill those jobs," he said.
"It will bring in other companies. It will make people more connected to the community rather than feeling like things aren't going to work out for them," Chapman said.