Much of the argument about Insure Tennessee is not what appears to be. Endless arguments are made about the practicality of the program. Legislators tried to get people to believe that a program that would not cost the state of Tennessee any money, that would help 280,000, and that the state could exit from at any time was an impractical boondoggle that they had to rescue the state from. They assured us they were for a better idea. They just didn’t have one to share.
The debate was a sham from the beginning to end. It was never about practicality, but instead about purpose. To accept the purpose of Insure Tennessee, to say that everyone deserves health insurance, is unfortunately a scary thing for some legislators to publicly say. It means taking a risk of being called “soft on Obamacare”. It means taking the chance of a primary challenge. At the same time saying that the poor don’t deserve insurance makes you look hard hearted and mean. It makes you look like you don’t care.
The argument from practicality is kind of a polite form of bigotry. It is a way to say unpleasant things without really saying them. It is a way to proclaim good heart and good intentions while you are being nasty and hateful. It is a way to proclaim innocence while socking it to the poorest and most vulnerable amongst as a way to politically protect yourself from some feared retribution.
It is why the effort to prove the practicality of Insure never really convinced anyone not already convinced. The people who came on board were those who bought the purpose. For them it was simple. It was important to do and Insure Tennessee was the best idea (actually the only idea) about how to do it.
Insure Tennessee will win when legislators are convinced that health reform is too important not to do. The question will change from can we afford to do to how in the world can we afford not to do it.
We are getting there. The fog churned out so relentlessly about Obamacare is being opened to new light. 280,000 Tennesseans deserve a fair chance and that means access to health care. The stories are beginning to have more traction than the stale talking points that earlier seemed to define the conversation.
It has not been an argument about how to care but rather we should care at all.
It is time for care to win out over fear. It is time for purpose to win out over contrived arguments about practicality. It is time to Insure Tennessee.