In a few days, on January 12th, the Tennessee General Assembly convenes for its new session. The next round of the battle to Insure Tennessee will begin. But it is different this time.. Last year was the expectation of the Governor ‘s call for a special session. There was a concerted campaign by civic, business and health organizations to explain it and extol it’s virtues. It seemed almost every newspaper in the state had come out in favor of it. Excitement was high. Confidence was sky high. How could a proposal fail that was proposed by a Governor who won 70% of the popular vote and who was wildly popular and seemingly supported everyone who was someone? How?
It didn’t just fail. It was massacred. With all the support in the world it not only did not make it out of the committee. It didn’t come close.
With all the talk about why Insure was important and why it made good sense we missed what was really important to many legislators. Insure Tennessee was dangerous. It put them at risk of being challenged by Tea Party challengers and our legislators knew very clearly that anything that put them at risk of not being reelected was really not that important and certainly not that good of an idea. Whether all the Obamacare rhetoric explains why it failed or justifies a simple vote for self interest doesn’t really matter. Insure Tennessee died… the victim of political convenience… the victim of petty partisanship…. I don’t know…. Maybe some of both, but Insure died and it really, looking back in retrospect, not even a close call.
On January 12th we try again. There is no special session this time. The Governor seems to have no intention of leading a fight be might not win. The lieutenant governor thinks we should wait until there is a new president he is sure will be a Republican.
Smart money says it will not make it again this year. It is, they say, the victim of an election year in which trying to expand health care in Tennessee is not seen as exactly a smart move. But the battle had not been fought and perhaps it is uphill but uphill is better than last year’s quicksand and we will see.
On the 12th advocates from all over the state will come to stand for Insure Tennessee. They will come to ask their legislators to simply do the right thing. Just do the right thing. Rise above Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. Stop unnecessary suffering. No one they will say should die from lack of care easily accessible. to those with insurance. They will ask that Tennessee be for all Tennesseans. They will ask their legislators to act without fear of consequence or punishment.
Many of the people who will be there on Tuesday know about fear. They live with it everyday. Either they or someone they know lives without insurance. Some will come knowing their lives are at stake. Others know people who have died who didn’t need to.
It will be a day of testimony. As an old friend facing life and perhaps death without insurance once told me…. “We are people too and this is wrong. We are people too and this is wrong.”
Please come on Tuesday if you can. I hope it works out I can come and I would love to see you there.
It is time to stand, not just on Tuesday but on the days following, for Insure Tennessee. Your voice matters. You matter.