Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Haslam Medicaid Plan Halted in Tennessee by Koch Brothers

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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam stalled and waffled for two years while trying to come up with a way to expand Medicaid in Tennessee without starting a Tea Party frenzy. Last year it was obvious that the ill-fated TennCare wasn't working, but he waited until after the November elections to bring up his new plan "Insure Tenn." There was even a hint of optimism in the air last week, as hospital officials, doctors, nurses, the the disabled came to Nashville to testify before the Legislature that insuring the poorest of the poor would be good for everyone.

Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee has a great webpage on Who Falls Into the Tennessee Medicaid Gap

But they were outnumbered by loonies, including a crazy lay-preacher from Dayton, Tennessee - of Scopes Monkey Trial fame - to pray against Medicaid because it's just big government trying to oppress sick people. Just embarrassing and sad.

And another group showed up - Americans For Prosperity - goons backed by the Koch Brothers, sent to remind the Tennessee GOP where it's money comes from. Thus the Insure TN plan was doomed, and never got out of committee for a vote.

From NBC News
NASHVILLE-In December, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, got the deal he wanted from the Obama administration: Tennessee would accept more than $1 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid, as allowed for in the Affordable Care Act, but Obama aides would allow Haslam to essentially write staunchly conservative ideas into the program's rules for the state. He dubbed the reformed Medicaid program "Insure Tennessee."

But the state's chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the national conservative group whose foundation is chaired by controversial billionaire David Koch, argued Haslam was just trying to trick conservatives into implementing Obamacare in their state by giving it a new name. AFP campaigned aggressively Haslam's plans for the next six weeks, even running radio ads blasting GOP state legislators who said they might vote for it.

. . . When the legislators walked into a hearing Tuesday morning to debate the measure, they looked out from the dais to a room packed with more than 100 people wearing red "Americans for Prosperity" t-shirts. Some of the activists had traveled on an AFP-chartered bus from Knoxville, more than two hours away, to pack the hearing well in advance of its 9:00 AM start time. . . . The sea of red crowded out representatives of the Tennessee Hospital Association, one of the big advocates of the Medicaid expansion, who were left to stand in the back or unable to get into the room at all.

And what did the AFP activists have to say for themselves?
“I’m skeptical of government-run programs,” said Louis Stans, a retired engineer who was part of the AFP group. Medicare, Stans said, was “better” and he had “paid into it my whole life.”
Those two sentences tell us a great deal about the state of the debate. Here’s a retiree who doesn’t like government-run programs, instead preferring a government-run program. In other words, an AFP activist traveled to the state capitol to condemn a conservative version of Medicaid expansion, because what he really wants is a socialized system like Medicare.
Levi Russell, a national spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity, told NBC News, “I would hope other governors look at Tennessee as an example.”

And just like the government-paid goons in our national Congress who keep trying to "Repeal Obamacare," the Republicans in Tennessee have no other plan for the poor except to bill the hospitals. They got nothing.

However, Gov. Haslam, to his credit, isn't dropping the subject. He mentioned coverage for the poorest citizens in his State of the State Address. This may seem like lip service, but I actually think he means it. Whether he can persuade the Tea Party to actually vote for something that will help the state is debatable. They'd rather talk about Guns and the Bible.

From the Nashville Banner
“Last week, the decision was made not to move forward with Insure Tennessee. However, that does not mean the issues around health care go away. Too many Tennesseans are still not getting health coverage they need in the right way, in the right place, at the right time,” Haslam said in his address to top lawmakers.
“Last week, I talked about coming here not just to make a point but to make a difference. It’s about looking for answers, not just having an agenda. With great power comes great responsibility. So, though the special session has ended, I hope we can find a way to work together to address those problems,” he said.

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