Tomorrow Speaker Harwell’s Task Force is due to report on their plan that they presented to Washington DC. Like all political things enough things have leaked out to make sure everyone basically knows what is going to be said before it is said. Barring any surprises the message seems clear even if all the details aren’t.
They are not going to close the coverage gap. The previous plan would have brought insurance to 280,000 Tennesseans without insurance at no cost to the state. The previous plan would have provided a life line to rural hospitals struggling to stay alive. The previous plan would have brought Tennessee dollars that are being lost at a rate of over a billion dollars a year back to Tennessee. The previous plan would have created 15,000 jobs.
The Task Force has another idea. The truth is they are really solving a different problem. They would provide insurance to 24000 veterans and to those with mental health diagnoses. If that works at some point in time there is supposed to be a second phase of some kind. Their news conference in the morning should bring the details of that.
I can’t think of two more politically correct things to say other than to say you want to provide coverage to veterans and to the “mentally ill.” But that solves none of the problems the previous plan addressed. Speaker Harwell it is not okay. It doesn’t begin to be okay and it would be a lie to turn to 280,000 of your neighbors and constituents and say aren’t you glad I fixed the problem. It would be an even bigger lie to tell them this is the best you can do. It isn’t.
Without even considering the ethics of telling some people the lifeboat has come for them while you purposely and willfully let others drown, how does a program that is basically deciding who is most worthy not put the dying and most sick first? I really do not understand that and would like to know what “conservative principle” that reflects. Speaker Harwell that is simply barbarism. It is unworthy of you. It is unworthy of Tennessee. And it is a betrayal of thousands and thousands of innocent Tennesseans.
I don’t think the task force was ever really about solving the problem. I know that tomorrow you and many others will tell us that it is courageously solved, but there is nothing courageous about what is before us. I think the real problem you wanted to solve was not the issue of 280,000 Tennesseans. It was the issue of the conversation about those 280,000 Tennesseans. Bluntly by the end of the session you had lost control of the conversation and your goal was to have the Task Force put you back in control. It was to define the conversation by saying we now have a solution and nothing else is politically realistic to talk about.
Thousands of Tennesseans have decided different. Our expectation is that the coverage gap be closed. The solution for 280,000 people without insurance is 280,000 people with insurance. The solution for rural hospitals closing because of the burden of uncompensated care is compensated care.
Speaker Harwell not only have you not solved the problem, you have not closed the conversation. No one is going away. No one is going to remain silent and compliant. We do not… will not… can not…. ever, ever, ever accept this political shell game as the final answer.
It is simple.
280,000 without insurance. 280,000 with insurance. You can do it. We can do it. Tennessee can do it.
We won’t settle for anything less.