Insure Tennessee…. after a year

Insure Tennessee was first announced about a year ago.   It failed twice in the legislature,  victims of political partisanship and an imaginary war against Barack Obama to show him he can’t push us around even if we have to deny access to health care to 280,000 Tennesseans to prove the point. Consigning thousands of Tennesseans to unnecessary sickness and suffering in the strangest of translations became standing up for Tennessee. How many people just decided to close their eyes, think about something else, and avoid a primary challenge we may never know.

Republican leaders, maybe just Senator Ramsey I don’t know, decided they needed to wait for a Republican president. Free wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted free and do less. This was before Republican presidential politics descended into some sort of bizarre theatre. I guess it is too late to take it back now.

Strangely enough what I remember the most from last December was the optimism. So many people from so many parts of Tennessee and from so many walks of life were on board. Newspapers, civic organizations, business leaders, medical organizations…. it seemed everybody was for Insure Tennessee. And it didn’t even come close. We found out the real religion in Tennessee… “politics as usual “.

It was so strange to realize the members of the legislature not only did not live in the same world I lived in, they did not think that my life or the lives of thousands of others were even important or worthy of consideration. And they were astounded that we had the temerity to ask for more.

On January 12 the new legislative session will start. Governor Haslam says it is still a good idea but it will be hard to win and not to count on his leadership. Trying to expand health care in a Republican state in the midst of a presidential campaign, particularly this campaign, seems more than an uphill battle. The most optimistic person I know tells me chances are slim.

I know I am a different person. Last year broke my heart. Insure Tennessee was my only hope of living with my wife again and when Insure died part of me did too. For a long time, since the previous governor starting cutting thousands and thousands of people off health care, Linda and I have been, with many other people, part of the struggle for health care justice in Tennessee. I have known people who didn’t have to die who did. And I have known many others who live each day in fear of the day they find out it is their turn because there is no help avaliable for them. Their government believes they are the cause of the crisis in health rather than the victims of it.

I know I have become a much angrier person than I was. So much seems so tragic and so wrongfully tragic. I wonder how to tell people about the morality of an issue who only see the political threat of that issue. I remember a state senator telling me that people without insurance didn’t care because they never complained to him. And I remember the look on his face when I asked him was that more about what they had to say or more about how much they thought he would listen.

I hope it works out where I can be there on January 12. I hope they will listen. But honestly part of me is afraid to hope. But maybe it is about more than what they hear. The real and cruelest tragedy is not to lose. The real tragedy is to allow them to make us invisible again. There have been way too many years of that. So come to Nashville if you can. Give it a face. Give it your voice. Share your hopes, your pain, your story. Tell them about a Tennessee for all Tennesseans. Tell them that the sickness and death of its citizens should never be the policy of a decent state. Tell them about a decent state.

The post below was written a long time ago. It is my present for Insure Tennessee on its first birthday…

The lost city of Tennessee

There was once a great city in Tennessee long since gone.  It was a large city, the third largest in the state, 280,000 people.  Although great in number it was a poor city.  All of its inhabitants were below 138% of poverty.  None had any kind of health insurance.  Sickness was normal for there was no way to keep people well.  They once had many hospitals but all had closed.  No one, no way to pay the bills.  They closed and the buildings stood empty, museums to what once was and was no longer.  The people were hard working people.  Many had 2 or 3 jobs but still no insurance.  New industry no longer came there.  Industry was about making people rich and this city was about being trapped in poor.  Besides no one wanted to employ somewhere with no doctors or hospitals.  It was a city without hope.  People died earlier than those that lived other places in Tennessee.  Some thought poverty was a capital crime and the executioners cancer and heart disease and diabetes but some died also of colds and flu and ordinary things so perhaps they just died from life.  No one really knew.   They knew there was talk sometimes of insurance, and medicine, and health but it was never more than just talk.  The government said it really cared and was real sympathetic but they had to be careful because some things just cost too much.  And if they started to pay and couldn’t afford it how cruel that would be if everyone got used to not dying and then had to back to early death.  Parents hated it when their kids grew up because they were normally freed from insurance on their 18th birthday and the parents knew it was a freedom not really free.

They heard everywhere of the scandal.  The federal government thought everyone should have insurance and Tennesseans knew that was wrong.   No one should tell them what to do and a cry went up to come up with a plan.  It went to a Senate committee and there a plan was created and it was brilliant.

The city was just known as the land of needless death and they decided to close it down.  They shipped the people away some to each and every town.  Those that were so visible were now invisible and needless death was no more.

Needless death still exists.  It’s still one of the largest cities in Tennessee.  No one’s life should be measured in lost months of life expectancy and for too many too often it is.  Call Senator Ramsey and Rep. Harwell and ask them to bring Insure Tennessee to the floor.  And if they won’t ask them what their plan is.  What exactly are they for?  If you are not against needless death you are for it.  There is no middle ground.  Ask again and again and again till you get an answer.  WHAT NOW???? WHAT IS THE PLAN???? Accept nothing less than an answer.

There once was a city.  Now it is every city and every town.



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