We live in times of great noise. It is easy if you listen at all to the political campaigns around us to feel like that all the air is being sucked out of the room and there is little left to talk about. In all the urgency we are surrounded with I despair for the important.
I honestly fear what the election means for the 280,000 people in the coverage gap in Tennessee. Tennessee I think is going to go big time for Donald Trump and it looks like he will lose big time right now. I wonder how many legislators will come into Nashville the next session determined to prove they cant be pushed around by Hillary Clinton and I worry that they will use efforts to close the gap as the sacrificial lamb to prove their commitment.
I wonder if the time for advocates to make their case is not right now before post election hysteria overwhelms everything. The Americans for Prosperity drowned Insure Tennessee in Obamacare before that session even started and I have a hard time believing they will be much kinder to Hillary Clinton.
The unnecessary suffering and tragic deaths of people who are simply poor and lack access to medical care should never be the policy of a decent state and it is an obscenity that politicians would find themselves in a position where saying so is an act of political courage or for some even political suicide. That has been the reality in Tennessee since the Supreme Court made medicaid expansion a state choice.
In the two years of Insure Tennessee legislator after legislator said there was nothing they could do.
I am one of the 280,000 people in the gap and after a while the biggest question was if we don’t matter what does? How can we be impossible to talk about?
I remember hearing some people say that poor people wanted too much. They were lazy and irresponsible and didn’t have enough skin in the game. I thought of my friend Tracy Foster fighting cancer for her life and wondered how much skin they wanted. I thought of my friend Michelle Farhan whose daughter died from the complications of a broken toe and wondered who was irresponsible. I thought about the people I had met and the incredible horrendous stories of decent people who had given their entire life to doing the right thing and now found themselves with no where to turn and found myself still wondering what matters?
The picture at the top of this post was taken at the doorway to Speaker Harwell’s office. We asked her to walk for a minute in our shoes and then tell us what mattered. The question is still out there to every legislator. It is a question that we need to be asking and keep asking. Ask now before special interests tell them what matters and you hear once again them tell you how helpless they are to do anything. Ask now.
The Speaker’s Task Force has developed a plan they hope to introduce this next session to close the gap. It is far from a perfect plan but it is a plan. The most important thing about it is that it is the first time legislative leadership has said we have to do something. It is the first official this matters.
It is an uphill battle. After the election it may be more uphill. Please learn about the plan. Please talk about the plan. Please talk for the plan. This is as I said at the beginning of this post a time of great noise. Dont let this die with our silence.
There are some fundamental inequities that define those that support them as much as those that suffer from them. This is one of them. The suffering of its people should not be the business of this state.
It is long past time. Close the gap. Leave no one behind.