At the brink: Thousands in Tennessee left out of health care protection

photo Deborah Merriman, left, and her daughter, Tabitha Trulock, right, had hoped that they would get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but are unable to afford even the lowest level catastrophic plan.

Deborah Merriman is struggling to understand why she's been left out of the great Medicaid expansion that occurred across half the nation on New Year's Day.

"I'm in a wheelchair, and I'm going blind," the 51-year-old Cleveland, Tenn., woman said. "I've been trying to get on disability. ... It's not easy. If you don't have health insurance, you can't even get in to see a doctor."

Merriman and her 29-year-old daughter, Peggy, both unemployed, were counting on help to get insurance coverage from the federal Affordable Care Act when major provisions of the law took effect Jan.