The words below from Walter Davis executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign sent earlier to the governor seem especially appropriate right now as we wait for the Tennessee plan to be unveiled.
Dear Governor Haslam:
In your State of the State Address you said: “I believe that more Tennesseans having health care is good for our state. <>
For Tennessee to be America at its best, we must get health care right <>
— for those who need health care coverage and for the long-term fiscal health of our state.”
Many Tennesseans get good health care and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has helped make that true for over 150,000 newly insured.
Some Tennesseans get the best health care money can buy.
But too many Tennesseans get emergency room health care or none at all.
Governor you say, Tennessee is America at its best. You say you have a plan but it remains undefined and invisible.
This beautiful land could be America at its best. You have a rare opportunity to make that happen, assure that all Tennesseans can find health care they need. The money is there. By the end of this year, you will have thrown away $1 billion in federal funds that could have provided health insurance for thousands, saved community hospitals and kept jobs here in the state. Some say that number is far too low an estimate.
Richard Nixon said, “Without adequate health care, no one can make full use of his or her talents and opportunities. It is thus just as important that economic, racial and social barriers not stand in the way of good health care as it is to eliminate those barriers to a good education and a good job.” He said that 40 years ago. [February 6, 1974]
It has taken one hundred years to reach the point where we can build a health care system where all could have access. Tennessee should not turn in an oppositve direction, abandoning tens of thousands to desperation and bankruptcy.
Gov. Haslam you say, “We are a model to the nation.” We could be. But right now, we are a model of how not to do it. The path we are on now is one that builds a separate but unequal system of health care – where money alone determines whether you get care. That’s not a good model. It serves none of us to have a neighbor dying for lack of medication or a necessary procedure. Please Governor, have the courage to meet with the people thrown into a gap, locked out, by your decision.
Your fiscal calculations are cold dead facts rather than living analysis. What is the cost to a community to lose it local hospital? Of course, jobs. Of course, timely access in emergencies but there is more – the sense of value a community holds dear for its people, a sense of control over one’s destiny and the ability to plan and build a healthier place for people.
That’s a social cost. Beyond your budget, communities are losing much more – lose a hospital, close an emergency room, lose professionals with keystone salaries, weaken the tax base, see young people leave, and fail working people who have built this state.
Governor, do the right thing. Do the moral thing. Take the federal funds, repair TennCare, put TennCare workers back in DHS offices and hospitals, widen the enrollment in TennCare, control costs in a responsible way not a slash and burn way, keep our hospitals open.
Remember your own words:
“I believe that more Tennesseans having health care is good for our state.”