Define the conversation

Governor Haslam says he is not as “optimistic” about a Tennessee Plan as he was 6 weeks ago.  I take this to mean the federal government is unlikely to accept any proposed elements of the Tennessee Plan that violate or contradict federal law or regulation.  He is not going to be able to write the rules.  He is going to have to follow them.  If the condition of him fighting for Tenn Care expansion is for it to be an easy fight he is not going to make the fight.

The election has been in the strangest of circumstances the “dead period” (What kind of political system makes it off limits to talk about the most important issue to face for fear someone would have to take a stand on it?)  It is now time to define the conversation that will govern the decision on Tenn Care expansion.

The people who would have us vote no on Tenn Care expansion will try to make us believe that a no vote is the only way to save us from a federal menace that will lead us to chaos.  In face of all the facts to the contrary that is momentous argument to make but that has never stopped a politician yet.

The voice missing is ours.  It is time for Tennessee to be for Tennesseans regardless of their socioeconomic status and for politicians to talk to the people they work for.  Share your story and your concerns today.  Call your legislator and speak to him today.  You will only be heard if you speak.

You are invited to legislative plaza in Nashville on November 10.  Linda and I will be having a “Speak to the people” rally.  46000 people have spoke.  They have signed a petition urging Governor Haslam to expand Tenn Care and we will deliver that petition.  Other people in the coverage gap will be speaking.  We hope to see you there about 11am. Please share this post and spread the word.

Thanks a lot.

Larry and Linda


On November 10th Linda and I are going to Nashville to see Governor Haslam.  We are calling it “Speak with the people.”  When I called to set up an appointment with him I was told that it was against his policy to talk with his constituents about Tenn Care expansion.  It is way past time for him to talk with his constituents.  We will be meeting at the legislative plaza at 11 am.  A variety of people in the coverage gap including Linda and I will be sharing our experiences and asking the Governor to finally talk to the people he works for.  YOU ARE INVITED.  PLEASE SAVE THE DATE AND SHARE WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW.


The 126 letter: tell me I am wrong

Dear Governor Haslam:

We are back from a short break.  This is the 126th letter.

Please tell me I am wrong.

I have listened to many people talk about what they think you will do and why.  Most of them know much more than me.  I don’t think anybody claims they know.  These are some guesses, educated guesses, but guesses.  I hope they are wrong.  Please tell me they are wrong.

1.  The early optimism that many people had when you first announced you were going to submit a Tennessee Plan has disappeared.  One person told me he thought your announcement was two things:  a way to deflect rising public sentiment for Tenn Care expansion and a trial balloon floated out to see what kind of reaction you would get from legislators.  On the one hand you could slow down criticism by appearing to be moving forward thus muting the outrage of so many.  On the other hand you would know what to tell the legislators you were not doing.  It gave you plausible deniability on both sides.

2.  You have been surprised by the passion of the criticism that people have had for the passive approach you have taken to this issue.  Many people see it as an emergency.  You seem to have seen it as something “you hope to get to.”  From the beginning you seemed to lack any sense of urgency on this issue. 

3.  The attack on Tenn Care operations and Darrin Gordon seems to have taken you by surprise.  You didn’t seem to realize that many people saw the decisions made about enrollment, the lack of taking responsibility for computer problems, and the refusal to do anything in a timely manner while blaming those asking for help as supreme arrogance on your part and on the part of Gordon.  Your attack on the Tennessee Justice Center as suing the state for frivolous reasons and your intent on defending the state from following the law by giving millions of dollars to an out of state law firm, at  time when you are getting ready to announce widespread budget cuts, to pursue this defense makes your sincerity suspect at best.

4. Way too many people I know believe you will submit an initial plan to the federal government sure to be rejected as a way to show first of all that you can’t be pushed around by advocates, secondly to show you are not supporting the ACA and thirdly to maintain your credibility with the Tea Party folks. You get to say you care, you have a vision about how to make things better, the federal government is keeping you from making it happen and you are doing all this remaining true to “Tennessee values.”

5. If something does happen it will happen only after the economic disaster of not expanding makes it impossible for anyone to talk their way out of expansion. Multiple hospital closures might get us there.

6. A deal would be struck to “take the money” and to mollify the Tea party folks the poor would be required to have “skin in the game” through some type of co pays or other mechanism. Tenn Care would be expanded with the clear message “the poor cause their own problems because of the life they lead.”

I with everything in my heart want you to expand Tenn Care. I hope what I have written above is wrong….just totally one hundred percent wrong. I wish, and I know this is foolishly naive, that we gave health care to all Tennesseans because it was the right, best and only humane thing to do. I guess I am afflicted with terminal foolishness.

Good luck in the coming term. I hope you leave a legacy any governor would be proud to leave.

Until the next letter,

Sincerely yours,
Larry Drain


Dear Governor Haslam is going to go on hiatus for a couple of weeks at least.  Events will decide how long.  It may shorter or a little longer.

The reasons are simple:

1.  The focus of this blog was to get Haslam to propose an expansion of Tenn Care.  He now indicates he will do that.  That is certainly no promise and even more no promise that his proposal will not impose limits on people that make it problematic at best.  And he may back out and say there is no middle ground were the federal government will approve a plan he can sell to the state legislature.  No one knows.

2.  With this in mind I really don’t know what to say next.  Haslam’s actions will provide the context for what follows next.

3.  Writing this blog, these letters has been a marathon race and I can use the time to step away.  Reading back the tone of many of the later letters has been much more angry.  I can use the time to recharge batteries.

4.  Linda and I are going to Nashville on Nov 10 to see the governor.  This gives us a better chance to plan that event.

All really depends on the governor.

Thanks to everyone for their support.  In the short time we have been going over 5000 people follow this blog.  Our story has went viral.  Thousands of people have written the governor in support.  Most importantly others are starting to share their stories.  Tenn Care expansion has went from no chance to real chance.  Thanks to each one of you.

We will be back. I hope to celebrate good news.  But we will be back.

The 125 letter: outrage

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 125th letter to you.

It has been a couple days since I have written a letter.  I have been looking back over  past letters and wondering what to say.  So many things have been talked about I wasn’t really sure.  The talk about you actually presenting a real Tennessee plan instead of just planning to have a plan has everyone a little excited. It feels like we are moving closer to reality.  And I wonder about how to phrase things.   How do you draw the line between being encouraging about might happen and angry about has happened?  I don’t know.

Almost surely people have died that didn’t need to.  Almost surely people have suffered pain and suffering and illness that didn’t need to.  Almost surely people are facing financial ruin that didn’t need to. And almost surely people have changed in ways they wish they hadn’t.

I know I have.  These letters were born out of a deep, soul crushing sense of outrage at what your failure to expand Tenn Care had cost me and my wife.  This year has been the worst, most overwhelming year of my life.  So much has been lost.  I don’t know if I can put it into words.  My marriage has been shredded by your actions or rather your infractions.  I think maybe people have heard our story so often that the sheer nastiness of it has been muted.  I have tried hard to accept what I can’t control and some days have done so well.  Other days not.  I am angry, irritable, short tempered.  Some days I don’t like me.  Some days I feel like I am gone.  Some days I wonder when I will return.

People often tell Linda and I we are heroes but neither of us really buy that.  There are people fighting for their lives in a system that debates rather or not it is a wise or ethical choice to help them.  There are people who wonder every day if anyone is listening or anyone sees.  There are people who have found that their being poor is a capital crime and wonder what court will hear their appeal.  These people are the real heroes. 

The worst of it is not about us, but the worst of our life has been about it.  Linda talks a lot about asunder… “What God has put together let no man out asunder…”  It has been a through the looking glass year for us. And Governor you have put us asunder.

Governor I will rejoice if there is a Tennessee Plan.  The state of Tennessee needs to get out of the business of deciding which of its citizens is disposable.  It is way way overdue.  And I will rejoice that you have acted.

The rage will not go away soon I fear.  The outrage will color life for a while.  I want to say I will be forgiving but honestly I don’t know.  You have affected the lives of people you have never met more than anything they have faced.  I hope the responsibility weighs heavy on your heart.

Gather courage Governor.  The path ahead is difficult.  It is a journey so important.  You can make this a better world for so many.  I hope you see it as an opportunity  and not a burden.

We are all looking forward to the Tennessee plan.  And a changed Tennessee.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly
Larry Drain

The 124th letter: Don’t solve a problem by making a problem

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 124th letter to you.

Don’t solve a problem by making a problem.

Your appeal of the Tenn Care ruling is an example.  You are appealing a ruling that says the state of Tennessee has to follow the law.  The basis of your appeal is that the federal government made you do it.  In the end you will have to follow the law and a bunch of lawyers will pocket Tennessee tax payer money in a year you  are expecting to have to cut spending by 7%.  Come on.  Do you really think anyone is going to buy that?  By the way it is unlikely a class action law suit for violating people’s rights will be filed against you if you don’t violate the rights of a whole class of people.

They tell me you are close to a Tennessee Plan.  Please think carefully.  There are a lot of ways you can go with this.  I am delighted you are acting, but please don’t solve one thing by making something else worse.  Beware of asking for skin of people with no skin left.

Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain