Dear Governor Haslam,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . . “ – Declaration of Independence
I hear lots of Republicans spouting rhetoric about the “right to life.” In a sense they are correct. All men and women should have the right to live. So, I really must question why you and our state legislature are are opposed to the expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee. Do you honestly not understand that Tennesseans—your neighbors—are DYING because you refuse to expand Medicaid? Governor, you have the facts available to you. You don’t even have to bother doing the research because Larry Drain sends you updates every day that prove expanding Medicaid will improve the quality of life for Tennesseans not just medically but financially.
Governor Haslam, I have health insurance. My husband has a good job with excellent benefits. I had a freak accident five years ago when I fell leaving a restaurant in Knoxville. I spent a solid month in the University of Tennessee Medical Center. I had eleven surgeries that year and needed home nursing services and months of physical therapy. Had I not had insurance, I am sure we would have lost everything including our home. I am completely disabled now. I can barely walk or stand. I had to give up my job as a public school teacher. One health problem has led to another, and I now take ten medications every day including two types of insulin for diabetes that has become much more severe due to my lack of mobility.
Even considering the pain I face daily and the severity of my other health issues, I am one of the lucky ones. I can afford my prescriptions. My insurance plan covers my weekly visit to the chiropractor and massage therapist. I can visit my primary care doctor if I have a sinus infection and not worry that the expense will compromise my food budget.
My neighbor next door isn’t so lucky. He fell into the Haslam Chasm: he did not qualify for TennCare (55 year old childless male), and he made too little as a stockman in a pet store to purchase a plan on the Marketplace. He had a heart attack last spring and needed a stint…actually he needed two. He only received the first one because he was in imminent danger of dying. The doctor and hospital told him to come back later for the second one. Of course he hasn’t been able to do that because he has no insurance. He has tried to return to work, but he is barely able to do his job due to the fatigue and weakness associated with having a clogged artery to his heart. His hours have been cut back on his doctor’s orders. He and his wife, who has very serious COPD, cannot afford their medications or “luxuries” like food and clothing. Do you honestly believe that it would hurt Tennessee to accept federal dollars to provide health care to my neighbors? Tennessee is losing revenue because they cannot afford to purchase the necessities of life. They could both work if they could afford their medications and health treatments. Instead, their health expenses get passed along to those of us who can pay in the form of higher charges from doctors and hospitals.
Now, for just a moment, I would like to speak to you about Larry and Linda Drain. I imagine you are getting heartily sick of hearing from folks on their behalf. Tough. Do something about it. Larry and Linda deserve a response from you. I suspect you will send me your form letter full of rhetoric, but please don’t bother. Use that time and energy to respond to the Drains. Ignoring him makes you look arrogant and uncaring. Of course failing to expand Medicaid makes you look foolish and irresponsible, so perhaps you are unconcerned with the perceptions of your constituents. You need to get concerned about Larry and Linda. They are a very sympathetic example of why Tennessee needs the expansion. Your gubernatorial race is all but in the bag, but I suspect you have aspirations for higher office. Good luck with that: Tennesseans might not mind you sacrificing the lives of its citizens for political football, but the rest of America will not be impressed by your callousness.
I highly doubt you bother to read your own email, so this message is for the staffer who does. My email doesn’t say anything the governor hasn’t heard a thousand times, but we are tired of being ignored. A form letter response is cold comfort to those who must choose between prescriptions and food for their families. Dying should never be one of the options just because you cannot afford medical treatment. As a staff person, how can you support a governor who wouldn’t support you if you fell into the Medicaid gap? Please don’t bother sending me a form letter response. It is insulting.
Gretchen S. Kidd