Dear Govenor Haslam:
This letter is an addition to the 100th letter….more on the 100th letter.
I have reread the 100th letter several times and have decided there are still things that I wanted to say.
This letter represents a watershed in many ways. Simply as the 100th letter it signifies how far and how long I have come. It comes around the time you announced your decision to submit a for real living and breathing Tennessee Plan to the federal government instead of the phantom everyone has been chasing for months. And it happens shortly after I have become aware of how many people have made some kind of effort to contact you.
There is a lot of suspicion of you. The Tea Party folks seem to think you have gone mad. I think they thought it was settled. I think they thought all your talk was just talk and you covering your rear while trying to pretend like you were doing something. Many of them will oppose anything you come up with. Ideology will be more important than ideas for them. Getting their way will be more important than anything anyone else needs or wants. They will write hospitals closing off as they need to learn to manage their money better. They will dismiss people dying without an effort. They may acknowledge they are a tragedy. But in their eyes it will be a tragedy forced on us by the President.
There are I believe a group of moderate Republicans who I think are glad to see you do something finally. They know what lack of expansion has meant to the people they serve. Their heads have been ducked for a long time waiting on you to stand up and actually supply some leadership. The ones I talked to were not willing to be hung out to dry. They are quite up front about that. I think they hope your word is good. I think they hope that real bad. I think that they are not sure yet. They are waiting on something more than a speech.
There is a large group of people who are afraid that you were going to let the medical system, particularly the system in rural areas or in areas serving a lot of uninsured people die. They are afraid, not just what your inaction means to those who are uninsured but to the care of everyone depending on a hospital or medical practice being swallowed by uncompensated care. A couple of weeks ago I sat with a group of people from Brownsville talking about the hospital that died in their community and what that meant for everyone. There were people from other rural areas in the room and they talked about the trouble their hospitals were in. No one thought Brownsville would be the last.
I think the hospital people are worried about your strength– do you have anywhere close to the political capitol to pull this off– and whether this is really a commitment on your part or a gesture that you will abandon in the name of political expediency if the going gets tough. I have heard you many times say you would like to see something work out, but I have never heard you say something has to work out. It has never seemed a necessity to you. I share their suspicions.
You are going to hear a lot more from people in the gap like me. I think you already have. These are the people waiting to see the level of your commitment to them. They want to know you are their governor also. These are people who have many times given up because in a thousand ways they have been told not to bother. The government is not the source of solutions in their experience. It has been the source of problems. And they want to know why Tennesseans cant have what other people in other states have. They largely dont believe you. You havent given them any reason to.
There is one more group that I think you might hear from but I think you might have to ask. Ordinary Tennesseans are decent people. Give them a chance to be decent. That has been one of the greatest losses of this whole thing. People who want no one to die or suffer unnecessarily have been rendered silent while you ponder the consequences of making the legislators who are supposed to represent them mad. To paraphrase the movie, “If you build it they will come…. If you lead they will follow….If you ask for help you will get it.”
Governor do better and we will all be better. Tennessee is better than political expediency. It is time to open the doors and let everyone in.