It was painful to read, again, in Rep. Mary Littleton’s column last week that Governor Haslam has rejected the opportunity to expand the TennCare program in order to cover some 200,000 or more Tennesseeans who lack affordable health insurance and are thus denied access to decent health care. These “working poor” individuals will not be able to secure insurance under any other provision of the Affordable Care Act, but could have been added to the TennCare rolls at no cost for the first three years and no more than 10% of the cost thereafter.
Instead, the Governor has rejected billions of dollars that would have paid for these people’s care, led to the creation of thousands of new healthcare jobs, and saved any number of small and rural hospitals that are likely to be crushed by the burden of caring for the uninsured with little hope of reimbursement. According to Rep. Littleton’s column and other sources, the Governor is said to be working on a “Tennessee plan” which will avoid all of Medicaid’s “bureaucracy and mandates” (and of course will have none of its own). The plan, if it exists, seems unlikely to satisfy Federal requirements, which will allow Haslam to blame the wicked Feds for his callous actions and enable him to remain the 18th Republican governor who has proudly displayed, at other people’s expense, his contempt for “Obamacare” and for the President of the United States.
I, for one, am tired of trying to divine Rep. Littleton’s views of this or any other legislative matter from the canned Republican propaganda that appears with her face on it every week. As one of her constituents, I would like to know what she thinks of recent developments and what role she has played or intends to play in their resolution. What advice does she have for the thousands of Tennesseans, young and old, black and white, Republican and Democrat, who will have nowhere to turn when illness or injury strikes them or a member of their family? What is she going to do to ensure that the Governor at least comes out with a presentable “Tennessee plan” within a reasonable time, and to help secure its approval if such should happen to be deserved? Will Rep. Littleton even promise to support and vote for a viable plan that either expands the TennCare program or has a similarly beneficial effect? Whether we voted for her or not, the people of this district now look to her for leadership and fair representation, and we are entitled to know where she stands and what she is willing to do for us.
MICHAEL S. LOTTMAN