The 120th letter: Speak

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 120th letter to you.

Speak.  Voices are everywhere except one.  Yours.  Speak.  A lot of people are wanting to know what you know and more importantly what you care about.  After a complete term in office there should be no questions but there are.  After watching what looks like your defense of Darrin Gordon trying to blame others for his mistakes people wonder about you.  Do the people of this state come first or not?  I have heard many make an ethical stand on Tenn Care expansion both pro and con.  Your only question seems to be political practicality.

Your voice is missing.  What do you believe?  We don’t need to wait for a Tennessee plan to hear that.  Please speak.  Help define the conversation before you find it has defined you.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

Enough is enough

Michelle Johnson of the Tennessee Justice Center hit it right on the nose:


Enough lives have been lost to a system that treats the lives of poor people as disposable.

Enough federal tax dollars-our federal tax dollars- have went someplace else other than Tennessee.

Enough hospitals have closed or been put in danger of closing.

Enough excuses have been heard about why we cant do better.

Enough time has been spent with people trying to make a point about Obama by hurting the citizens of this state.

Enough lies and evasions have been told to people trying to use the services they are entitled to.

Enough time has been spent with the state of Tennessee making excuses for its own incompetence and not accepting responsibility and moving on.

Enough time has been spent waiting for legislators to speak up for the health and lives of the people they claim to represent.

Enough time has been spent waiting for Bill Haslam to stop working on it and get it done.

Enough people for way too much time have found the state of Tennessee more dangerous to their health than any sickness.



The 119 letter: take control

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 119th letter to you.

You need to take control. Darrin Gordon has and will do damage to you. It is unthinkable that when thousands of Tennesseans are struggling with life and death issues around health care that Tennessee is going to spend millions of dollars on legal fees defending Darin Gordons incompetence and large ego. Enough is enough.

It sounds like you are going to expand Tenn Care in some fashion. Based on the debacle of Tennessee’s computer system is Darin Gordon really who you want in charge of that? He is going to become a lightening rod for political controversy. Is he who you want? Tenn Care needs to be about Tenn Care and less about the ego of the man who runs it.

Take control. Replace Darin Gordon.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

The 118th letter: The excuse of Barack Obama

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 118th letter to you.

The first shot in defining the discussion about Tenn Care discussion was fired in the last couple of days.  Speaker Harwell says it will be next to impossible to extend Tenn Care because people associate it with Obama and obamacare and they hate Obama. 

She is saying that because some legislators don’t like who the president is they are willing, no determined, to mortgage, steal, and destroy the lives of over 161,000 Tennesseans to prove a point.  If that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach then you have a much stronger stomach than me.

You need to define the conversation.  It is about the provision of medical services to poor people who otherwise have no access or insufficient access to basic and necessary medical services.  It is about honoring the citizens of this state.

Governor you have to share a vision of what Tenn Care expansion means.  You can’t leave it to political opportunism and partisanship.  It is not a vote on Barrack Obama.  That vote has already been taken.

Governor make Tennessee for Tennesseans.  All Tennesseans.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

The 117th letter: Political possibility or moral necessity

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 117th letter to you.

Now is the time for you to define the conversation the legislature will join in January.  Tenn Care expansion should be more than a conversation about political possibility.  It should be a conversation about moral necessity.  It is more than “how can we.”  It should be “how can we not.”

You can make that happen by the way you frame the issue.  One idea:  have a 1 day “gap” conference.  Listen to the people affected.  Listen to the people.  Invite community leaders etc who can be helpful in framing a moral message…..but listen to the people.  Add your voice to theirs.

Take the money.  For goodness sakes take the money.  Way too much has been passed on.  But serve the people.  It is way pass time.  And even more than the money we can not pass any longer on that.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

The angle of repose

I had never heard of the angle of repose until tonight.  It is the last angle of stability, the last angle something can rest at before it becomes unstable and begins to move.  It is the angle at which the momentum to change becomes steadily irrestible. 

Several months ago the option of Tenn Care expansion was at its angle of repose.  It wasnt moving.  People said it was a waste of time.  Dont even talk about it.  The odds against Tenn Care expansion seemed akin to those of winning the lottery.

Something happened.  Many somethings happened actually.  Each of them were probably like pebbles against a big rock, but together they started a landslide strong enough to move the biggest rock and the unthinkable is becoming the most likely.  A tipping point has been reached.

A  important part of this has been voice…actually thousands and thousands of voices.  Letters, calls, and emails probably in the thousands have left an administration that wouldnt listen to individuals with no choice but to listen to everyone.

And it is so vital now to raise the volume higher.  It is time for feet to be held to the fire and endless repeats of a simple idea:  make the Tennessee plan for Tennesseans.  

It is time to define the conversation that the legislature will join when they return in January.  Speak.  Speak loud.  Speak often.  Bill Haslam may choose not to speak to you.  You can most decidedly choose to speak to him.

His angle of repose is gone.  Bout time.

The 116th letter: 63

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 116th letter to you.

Today is my 63rd birthday.

My birthday wish is real simple.  I wish that you would loudly, passionately and with great commitment show us all there was no need for a 117th letter.

Oh well…. I am sure I will get something else I like.

Regretfully until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

The 115th letter: Do you really know enough

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 115th letter to you.

I talked with Don Johnson your director of constituent affairs. He was very polite and courteous to me and I appreciate his effort very much. It was very nice to have someone from your office listen.

He tells me that you will not talk to me. He says (and this is my take on what he said) that basically you have made the decision to press for expansion and that you knew what you needed to know and you didnt see how talking to me would change things or add anything. It would change things for me but perhaps that is not that important in your scheme of things. 15-20 minutes does not seem that much in light of the last 9 months. I simply dont believe you couldnt make that time. I just dont. I have asked Mr. Johnson to ask you to reconsider. I hope you will talk to him.

I dont buy your line. I think you are afraid to talk to people you dont control. You didnt talk to people before your decision and know you are saying you dont need to. Just seems convenient.

You dont need people to share facts with you. You need to have them share your experiences, their stories. You will need them in your next battles with the legislature. This is so much more than numbers. There is more to facts than the facts. And you dont know. You cant know. You havent been there. You dont even live in the same world.

You dont know:

What it is like to fear the representatives you elected….

What it is like to spend 4 hours waiting in an ER for an ordinary medical complaint.

To be prescribed medicine you cant fill.

To know if you are really sick the lack of medical access may kill you.

To worry how you will get help for a family member who is sick.

To owe thousands of dollars to the local ER that you will never be able to pay.

To listen to politicians tell your biggest problem is being lazy.

Their is much you need to know you dont. You could learn from us. We deserve the chance to be heard.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

On finally talking to the Governor’s office

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.