The Governors office called tonight. After 114 unanswered letters they finally called.
I talked with Don Johnson the Governor’s head of constituent affairs. We probably talked for about 45 minutes. He came across as a nice man whose job was to deliver bad news. He told me that the governor would not see me. He said they were aware of the problems that lack of Tenn Care expansion caused and their plan was to move forward on expansion. He said they already had the information they needed and they didnt see that talking to me would really change things. I had a lot to say to him.
1. I explained our story in depth and told him what lack of expansion had met for us. I was very explicit and very blunt. To his credit he listened. I told him all I wanted to do was to have the same conversation with the Governor I was having with him and that 15 or 20 minutes just didnt seem that much considering what we had lived with. I asked him to ask the governor to reconsider and talk with me. He told me that they knew a lot of people had suffered and suffered a lot.
2. I confronted him about what I had been told earlier in the week that it was against the governor’s policy to talk with constituents about tenn care expansion. He said it should have never been said like that. Their was no official policy like that. My impression was that while there is no policy there is a policy and that he really wished the staff had been more subtle than they were. Being told “we already have all the information we need and talking to you wont add anything” sounds a lot like “its against the governors policy to talk with constituents about tenn care expansion.”
3. I told him that many people were very suspicious of the governors intention. Saying something and doing something are not the same thing.
4. I told him that the perception was held by many that the governor avoided talking to anyone who he thought might be critical.
5. He told me that the Governors office was very aware of my letters and mine and Linda’s situation. He said that many many people had called or emailed or written specifically about us and asking the governor to expand tenn care. After so long waiting and wondering it was nice to hear we perhaps made a difference. Several times he made very supportive comments and I never felt like he was trying to hurry me.
6. I told him my state senator knew me and asked him to check with him about whether or not he thought I was worth talking to. I also asked him to check with one of his cabinet members I knew who could attest to my character.
7. I told him that if the governor had a real plan that helped real people I would support him at the top of my lungs. I also told him if the plan was hurtful I would be glad to oppose it at the same volume.
8. I thanked him again for calling and being so courteous. I asked him again to ask the governor to change his mind. My gut level feeling is that whether or not they call it a policy or not there is one and the governor will continue to say no.
9. I told him that Linda and I were coming anyway and we hoped we would have the chance for conversation. But we were coming.
I am grateful for Mr. Johnson calling. I am glad the governor seems to want to do something when a couple of months ago there seemed no chance at all. Something happened and I can only hope more happens to bring it all to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Johnson asked me to call him back if I had more to share and something tells me we will have more conversations.
A good conversation 114 letters into the process.