Insure Tennessee, Governor Haslam’s program to expand healthcare to over 280,000 Tennesseans without insurance, arrived stillborn on December 14, 2014, a little more than a year ago. It’s arrival was heralded with great acclaim by people all across the state. It’s support was wide ranging and deep. For those who had waited for the day they could actually go to the doctor when they were sick and for those looking for a way to save their lives from illness that with insurance need not be life threatening it was an answer to prayer. It was hope…. the very first hope in a long time. For those whose lived experience was that unnecessary suffering and early death was their destiny, their sentence it was proof that Tennessee could be about care and compassion and move past a politics that left poor people out of the promises and opportunities afforded others.
It was a false hope.
Insure Tennessee never saw its first breath. It died in a committee where the votes of seven people were the only votes. Despite a massive outpouring of support and the personal testimony of so many it was never much more than a brief conversation for a Republican legislature that eager to “defeat” Obamacare and to insure their safety from primary challengers chose not to care. They did not fight for a better option. They didn’t have any other options. They chose not to care and to turn their backs on the unnecessary suffering and needless deaths of the people they claimed to represent.
In another month a new legislative session will begin and the Republican leadership is already preparing the burial ground. Governor Haslam has said he still thinks it is the right thing to do but it would be difficult at best and he thinks his best role as leader of Tennessee is to do nothing. (Some cynics I know think he would like to be considered as a dark horse Republican vice presidential candidate and Insure Tennessee would be a very embarrassing thing to explain away)
Many good people from both sides of the aisle are trying to bring Insure Tennessee is first real breath. It will not pass without Republican approval and it will not get that without Republican leadership. It is really unclear if their will be much of that. In the middle of a presidential campaign, especially this campaign, supporting Insure Tennessee is not likely to be something a lot of Republican legislators are likely to be standing in line to do.
I hope I am so wrong. I would like to be so wrong. I would like to be so very, very, very wrong. The battle ahead is very real. Many more people die in Tennessee from lack of medical care than any terrorists will ever kill.
I hope it is a battle Tennessee wins. It has been a victory long time coming.
It would be nice next year to celebrate the first anniversary of hope… real hope.