I remember standing in line at a Walmart a couple years ago. The people in front of me were talking about Insure Tennessee. One of them turned to the other, “Do you believe all that stuff about people dying. I don’t. I don’t know anybody that died. Do you?” I couldn’t help myself. “I do. Would you like for me to tell you about them?” Things got real quiet. They looked at me like I was dirt and walked away shaking their heads… I guess at my bad manners.
I think she was in her early thirties when we met. Phil Breeden was still governor. He had just begun to “fix” Tenn Care and most of the people I knew were in a panic. They didn’t know on what list they were on. It was a scramble for life.
I had written him a letter asking him not to kill Linda. On first reading it looked like she was one of those who would be cut and I didn’t know how she would make it. We were in Nashville to speak at one of the first rallies and I met her there.
She was in a wheelchair that looked like it did everything. She had servere cerebral palsy and couldn’t walk on her own anymore. Her speech was almost unintelligible and I struggled to hear her story. She had half a dozen chronic diseases as a result of the CP and fighting for her life. I think she was on 10 or 15 meds. Her doctor had told her that losing even one of her meds might prove fatal. Despite all that she had a full time job. She owned her own home. She was a miracle by any measure I know.
She had just gotten word a couple of days before we met that was horrible, ugly bad news. She was going to lose all but 3 of her meds. Tenn Care was going to no longer pay for her wheel chair.
She was just the first of many that I came to know. Some of the stories I have told before. Some I have never told.
3 years ago I was told I needed surgery. The surgery was minor. Thousands of people go through it every year with little or no problem. The lack of the surgery was not minor and the doctor told me in the starkest possible terms what might be ahead. None of it has happened. I have one more month to go before Medicare kicks in and barring the totally unexpected I will make it to insurance.
It is a human tragedy of incredible proportions how many people haven’t and how many people won’t. It is not on many people’s front burner right now. Donald Trump is taking up all the oxygen in the room right now and it is a quiet time for something that should never know a quiet time. So much depends on the election. There is a plan of sorts that may be introduced in the next legislature. A lot of discussion right now is about finding the legislative traction to make all this happen. Faith in the good will and moral decency of the Tennessee legislature is not at an all time high. I am hoping.
The bottom line of all this is in Tennessee that you must meet certain qualifications in order not to suffer needlessly or even die. And there are people in power who believe it, if you go beneath the rhetoric they cover themselves up in, that poor people cost too much and just don’t have the qualifications needed.
In the next month or so as I get closer to actually leaving the gap I will be doing several posts to remember. Remembering where you have been has a lot to do with ultimately where you want to go. I had a friend when I asked him why he took part in a sit in on Governor Bredesen’s office put it real simple. “Sometimes all you can do is testify. All you can do is say we are people too and this is wrong.” I hope you will speak loudly to your legislator about the coming session.
Thanks to do many people who have been so supportive of me over the last years. You have made a difference. More than you will ever know.