In 2 or 3 weeks this legislative session in Tennessee will be over with. Insure Tennessee will not have passed. A bill supported by 70% of the people, virtually every newspaper in the state, virtually every civic organization, virtually every business organization, and virtually every health organization and proposed by a Republican governor with a huge approval rating to a Republican legislature was defeated in a Senate committee with virtually no debate. 280,000 people were left with no answer other than leaders who explained how they couldn’t lead, a governor who disappeared in the midst of the battle, and a parade of legislators who were against everything and for nothing. What was missed was the urgency of life without health insurance. It was an urgency those already receiving free health care from the state (like legislators) could never know. It was the urgency of those sick who without care face growing despair and even death. It was the urgency of those relying on emergency rooms for care. It was the urgency of those knowing that nothing can be prevented. It was the emergency of those who have to choose between financial ruin and basic health care. It was the urgency of those living with real trauma at the hands of a system that dismisses them as disposable, lazy and who tells them they just need to try harder. And it is the urgency of people who had finally began to start to believe in a system that had never given them reason to believe only to find out while many had heard few had listened.
It was a session where many senators showed what they really cared about. It was a session of heroes make no mistake. But it was also a session of unprecedented cowardice and opportunism. It was a session that ended with the biggest newspaper in the state in a front page editorial telling a serving Tennessee Senator that the people of Tennessee were not assholes. It was a session of shame. Just shame.
And now the clock is ticking. For me, for 280,000, perhaps for you, for someone you love, in a very real way for Tennessee. Without a special session the wait is two years. Honestly I don’t know I can do two years. Many, many who were hopeful this time, wont make it. It is not just that Insure Tennessee lost. Lives were lost. And a countdown too many wont make has started.
When you talk to your legislator tell him about urgency. Tell him about clocks. Tell him about ticking. Tell him he can help, that you expect his help, that you deserve his help. Tell him today. Tell him tomorrow. Keep telling him.
Pray for Tennessee. We can do better. We must do better.
The clock is ticking. I pray it stops soon.