Governor Haslam: from Laura Sell

Dear Governor Haslam,

I have never written you before, but for the first time, I am ashamed to be a Tennessean.

I am one of the lucky ones, because I have always had health insurance when I needed it. I am retired, but not yet eligible for Medicare. Luckily, my husband’s company still carries insurance for me. If I was single, I might be without options, despite a successful career. Sadly, the complexity of the Tenncare system keeps most folks from understanding what has been happening. Those who have employer insurance or Medicare or are affluent often have no idea of the suffering which is hidden from their view. Two friends of mine are examples of this:

One friend got kidney cancer and could not work. After surgery and chemo and spending tens of thousands of dollars of savings, he faced bankruptcy. The taxpayers paid Blount Memorial.
Another is a college student who works as a waitress. She will lose her Tenncare at the end of this year, when she turns 21, despite working to better herself.

When I see or hear of people needing health care who are being ignored, my best suggestion is that they consider moving to Kentucky. At least there they can have hope and receive necessary medical treatment before they get sicker.

Tenncare seems like a house of mirrors at Halloween with some 40 different categories which can be almost impossible to navigate. Who gets covered and who does not is very capricious. There is no state computer system to process applications, and there are no individuals at the Department of Human Services to help.

If Tenncare was a structure, it would have a few rooms which are livable-those providing for children and caregiver relatives who can use the Marketplace to apply. Many other rooms would be condemned, due to the many holes in the system which are tricky, not working or require a legal advocate to get through. And lastly, there would be a door leading to nowhere for those who do not have children or breast cancer and don’t earn more than poverty level wages-like Larry and Linda Drain.

If you were living in a house like the one I describe and could get an interest free loan, you probably would take it. With Medicaid expansion, Tennessee can get it completely paid for in 2015 and 2016 and get 90% paid for after that. And we can improve the health of our citizens and our economy. The alternative is to live in the only state in the country with such a dysfunctional system.

Please listen to Larry and Linda Drain and others who need your attention. You can be a hero for Tennesseans. We deserve more than smoke and mirrors.


Laura Sell

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