On May 19, 2014 I wrote my first letter to Governor Bill Haslam asking him to expand health care in Tennessee. Tomorrow is the end of the year. His decision not to earlier expand had led to my wife and I separating after 33 years of marriage in order to keep her health insurance that she needed to have any quality of life. Without access to medication there would be no way to stop the seizures that had marked her life and she could easily die. We have now been separated for about 510 days. I don’t know when or if we will ever live together again.
For me I have no insurance. I make $5000 too little to qualify. I have been told that if Linda and I divorce I may qualify. March 21 was our 34th wedding anniversary.
Someone once told me he was against health care expansion because he was for individual freedom (he had insurance). I told him he could have my freedom and I would take his chains gladly. No answer yet. Still waiting.
Life for us has become about surviving the law. I know I have become a much angrier person and although I try really hard to maintain balance and perspective I think I am not always an easy person to be around. Linda has been hurt in seizures multiple times in the last weeks. All the injuries have been when I have not been there. It is Monday as I write. I will not see her till probably Thursday. Some things are just what they are. It is the hardest thing I have learned in the last year. Small victories and good days matter.
As we have met more people in the last year we have tasted the tremendous suffering and agony this brings to so many people. I have met good and kind people who have tried to do the right thing their entire life trying to understand how their health and welfare is illegal in the state they call home. They stand convicted and have no idea of the crime.
One of the best surprises of the year was when Governor Haslam proposed Insure Tennessee. I was close to giving up faith that he had it in him to stand up and do the right thing. I can’t begin to put into words the hope and sense of redemption I felt when I heard the news. Then on top of that the state became alive in support. Virtually every newspaper, every civic organization, every business organization, every health organization, many faith based organizations, and many leaders and public figures came out publicly in favor. Polls showed great public support. From all I heard legislators were flooded with emails and phone calls saying support Insure Tennessee. It was a Tennessee past what many had thought would ever be possible.
The worst surprise of the year was when the governor has handed it to the legislature and then backed away. What he tried so hard to put together he just left hanging in the air and the most important bill in years was left to the moral leadership of Ron Ramsey and Beth Harwell.
There were some heroes. People like Doug Overby, Richard Briggs, Becky Massey and many more showed that it was possible for politicians to do the right thing even when it was risky and gave them little or no political gain.
But this was the legislature that made Todd Gardenhire more famous than he has ever deserved. This was the legislature that showed that even if Tennessee had changed that nothing had changed there and that calculations of political gain trumped all moral considerations. This was the legislature that showed that the worst thing was not someone dying needlessly, or unnecessary suffering or even a hospital closing. The worst thing was someone threatening to tell the Tea Party on you. If is so very sad. 280,000 people have been told they need to wait on a Republican president that has a Republican Congress that will cooperate with him that will give Tennessee the money they asked with no strings attached. Lord have mercy on us all. It is not enough to have a program that costs the state nothing. We want no expectations also. And 280,000 wait. Some will die that don’t have to. Many will suffer. The shame…..the overwhelming shame of it all.
Ron Ramsey says it is over with and we need to move past Insure Tennessee. He is such a foolish man. He wants badly to be governor from what I hear. He acts like he already is. Does he really believe he can ride Todd Gardenhire’s coat-tales into the governor’s mansion? Does he really believe the man who deserted 280,000 of his fellow citizens will be the next governor? Does he really believe all the news organizations, all the civic organizations, all the business organizations, all the health organizations that supported this don’t matter? Does he believe the thousands who emailed and called don’t vote? Does he really believe the poll results were made up? And does he really believe that anyone believes a word he says when he proclaims how powerless he is to affect the passage of Insure Tennessee in the senate. Senator Ramsey it ain’t over with and the only one trying to move past is you.
Tomorrow starts another year. I hope a better year. I need a better year. On a personal level we have no answers. Keep us in your prayers and thoughts. Keep Tennessee in your prayers and thoughts.
I was standing in line in Walmart a few months ago and heard the people in front of me arguing about health care expansion. One told the other, “I don’t believe anyone really dies. I don’t know anyone do you?” I interrupted their conversation. “I do….”
I pray the day comes when I dont….