The 131st letter: Tenn Care expansion is a public health emergency

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 131st letter to you.

We have a public health emergency in Tennessee.  You already know that.  We rank 42nd in the United States.  Chronic health problems are rising.  The lack of access to medical treatment by so many is an integral part of that emergency.

I went to a public health forum at UT Medical Center yesterday and listened to expert after expert give the word and the word about so many things was so alarming.  I listened to a doctor from Scott County talk about what the lack of medical access meant to his county and it was scary.

When your medical system is the emergency room you dont have much of a medical system.  You get no preventive care, no screenings or tests and largely dont go until things are so bad you cant live with it. 

It is a preventable tragedy.  And it is costing us on every single level.  The health of Tennessee is your concern.  The speakers made very clear that poor public health affects all of us and the fabric of life in Tennessee.

Again it comes back to the same question.  It is not about some notion of what we can afford to do.  It is about a terrible reality of what we cant afford not to do.

Expand Tenn Care… Give us a Tennessee Plan that is more than words and wishful thinking.

Act now.

Until next time.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

Again from Walter Davis

The words below from Walter Davis executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign sent earlier to the governor seem especially appropriate right now as we wait for the Tennessee plan to be unveiled.

Dear Governor Haslam:

In your State of the State Address you said: “I believe that more Tennesseans having health care is good for our state.  <>

For Tennessee to be America at its best, we must get health care right <>

— for those who need health care coverage and for the long-term fiscal health of our state.”

Many Tennesseans get good health care and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has helped make that true for over 150,000 newly insured.

Some Tennesseans get the best health care money can buy.

But too many Tennesseans get emergency room health care or none at all.

Governor you say, Tennessee is America at its best. You say you have a plan but it remains undefined and invisible.

This beautiful land could be America at its best. You have a rare opportunity to make that happen, assure that all Tennesseans can find health care they need. The money is there. By the end of this year, you will have thrown away $1 billion in federal funds that could have provided health insurance for thousands, saved community hospitals and kept jobs here in the state. Some say that number is far too low an estimate.

Richard Nixon said, “Without adequate health care, no one can make full use of his or her talents and opportunities. It is thus just as important that economic, racial and social barriers not stand in the way of good health care as it is to eliminate those barriers to a good education and a good job.” He said that 40 years ago. [February 6, 1974]

It has taken one hundred years to reach the point where we can build a health care system where all could have access. Tennessee should not  turn in an oppositve direction, abandoning tens of thousands to desperation and bankruptcy.

Gov. Haslam you say, “We are a model to the nation.” We could be. But right now, we are a model of how not to do it.  The path we are on now is one that builds a separate but unequal system of health care – where money alone determines whether you get care. That’s not a good model.  It serves none of us to have a neighbor dying for lack of medication or a necessary procedure.  Please Governor, have the courage to meet with the people thrown into a gap, locked out, by your decision.

Your fiscal calculations are cold dead facts rather than living analysis. What is the cost to a community to lose it local hospital? Of course, jobs. Of course, timely access in emergencies but there is more – the sense of value a community holds dear for its people, a sense of control over one’s destiny and the ability to plan and build a healthier place for people.

That’s a social cost. Beyond your budget, communities are losing much more – lose a hospital, close an emergency room, lose professionals with keystone salaries, weaken the tax base, see young people leave, and fail working people who have built this state.

Governor, do the right thing. Do the moral thing. Take the federal funds, repair TennCare, put TennCare workers back in DHS offices and hospitals, widen the enrollment in TennCare, control costs in a responsible way not a slash and burn way, keep our hospitals open.

Remember your own words:

“I believe that more Tennesseans having health care is good for our state.”

Yours impatiently,

Walter Davis

Bottom lines… lines: The story of Angela Hibbitt

Angela Hibbitt is a hero….an American hero.

Against overwhelming odds she has fashioned a meaningful, purposeful, successful life. Hers has been a triumph of character that should be shouted from the rooftops.

In order to save some money the state of Tennessee is sending her to a nursing home to die.

The post below tells her story. Despite muscular dystrophy and depending on a vent to breath she is a vital functioning member of her community. If you have a daughter she is what you hope she will grow up to be. But she is disposable. In Tennessee it is possible to cost too much and she does.

I salute her courage. There are far too many Tenn Care tragedies right now and I pray she finds resolution to hers and strength to deal with what is ahead.

In a state driven by its bottom line I fear we will lose our top line. In our drive to figure out what we can afford to do we have lost sight of what can’t afford to not do.

Peace be with you Angela Hibbitt. You have enriched my day.

TennCare’s bottom line could cost her everything
【from Next Browser】

The 130th letter: take the money

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 130th letter to you.

A friend told me I was expecting too much of you.  He said that given the current climate it was naive to expect you would take the moral leadership on any core issues facing Tennessee, especially if that leadership involved taking a stand against a group like the tea party.  His view was real simple.  Take the money.  Good business demanded it.  Take the money.

His view was simple.  There was a limit to how much money hospitals could lose on uncompensated care and still remain functional.  Somewhere they would need to drastically tighten belts and failing that close their doors.  The tightening of belts would affect the quality of medical care for everyone regardless of having or not having insurance.  In the end everyone suffers.  The current crisis in rural health with so many hospitals in danger of closing was he felt a preview of what is to come for everyone.  Everyone in the end will pay he said.  There is no other options.  Without expansion it was he felt inevitable.  Bad business was bad for everyone in the end.  You can  choose to pay or not pay to solve problems.  You could not choose whether or not to pay the cost of the consequences of those problems unsolved.  The buck stops somewhere.

I tend to view your governorship as a moral charge given you.  My friend said he thought you viewed it more as a business responsibility.

Maybe he is right.  Do the smart thing. Take the money.  Expand Tenn care.

Until next time

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

On teaching poor people not to be poor

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently said, in one of the strangest remarks made in an insanely strange politically season that expanding medicaid to the uninsured would deprive them of the chance to have access to the American dream. I am not kidding…. he really said that.

I have a friend whose daughter recently died from lack of adequate medical care. She didnt have insurance. A trivial medical problem spiralled out of control and she needlessly and tragically died. I would love to have Governor Walker tell me what part of the American dream that is. Studies show that as many as 900 people may die in Tennessee from lack of insurance and resulting lack of access to medical care. Is that too part of the American dream?

So far 2 hospitals have closed in Tennessee. Several more are either scheduled or in danger of being scheduled to close. All are in small towns or rural areas. It is becoming dangerous to live in rural districts rather you have insurance or not. I wonder what part of the American dream Governor Walker thinks that is?

I could go on and on. Governor Walkers apologetics, his flimsy attempt to justify keeping poor people from getting insurance because in some kind of twisted ideological way it is “good for them” is repulsive and disgusting to any decent person. It is one thing to deny people the services they need, but then to tell them you are doing it because it is “good for them” or in some way builds their character is hypocrisy of the rankest sort.

There is a widespread prejudice that poor people ask for much more than they deserve, that they brought their situation on themselves and if they just tried harder things would be okay. There is no recognition that many of the people in the coverage gap work one or more jobs, that they are decent people coping with extraordinary circumstances and are simply victims of a system where the gap between the haves and have nots is getting bigger and bigger. Their poverty is seen as a judgement on their character and if the truth be known are seen as being disposable people who cost more than they are worth.

In Tennessee they talk about the poor needing “skin in the game” to appreciate health insurance. Anybody worrying about skin has never known what it is like to try to survive illness without treatment because you can’t pay for help. They have never known what it is like to depend on the emergency room for all medical care. They have never known what is like to go to work no matter how sick because you have no benefits. They have never known what it is like to pray that minor ailments are not the beginning of major problems. They have never known what it is like to know that it doesn’t matter what kind of medication is prescribed because they can’t afford to buy it. They have never known what it is like to pray you never need surgery because you can never pay for it. They have never known what it is like to know you will probably die earlier than you should. And they have never known what is like to know that the state of Tennessee and the people elected to serve you are as dangerous as any sickness you will face.

The 129th letter: Again justice

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 129th letter to you.

We had a rally on November 10 at legislative plaza. The post below was one I read. Much simply comes down to justice.

I heard Michelle Farden talk about her daughter Monika. She died because she had no insurance. That’s it. That’s all of it. No insurance. In Tennessee while you are trying to do “what is best for Tennessee” an innocent person, in her mother’s words, “a good girl” died, basically from complications from an untreated broken toe. It is about justice.

Like the post below says it is your job. Please do your job.

Until next time.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my seventh letter to you.

It will be brief.  Your job description is justice.  I really think it is that simple.  Your job is through your decisions, your leadership and your modeling to give the people of this state the fairest chance availible to live a good and decent life.  Period.  Everything else is gravy.

How can there be justice without healthcare justice?? Where is the justice when some people are disposable??  Where is the justice in a society that treats the less priveliged members of it as though they were burdens and cost too much.  If justice for you, for me, for anyone is purchased with the misfortune of others do any of us have any real justice??  Are not we all diminished??

It is about being the governor of all Tennesseans even when it makes those you seek political favor from angry.  It is not just about being right it is about being good.

I hope you have a great Memorial day..  While thinking about the sacrifices of so many to make this a great country I hope you consider the challenges ahead facing you to make Tennessee a great state with justice for all and a state where no one will die because they cant access adequate medical care we all should have.

Governor please stand up for all of us.  Expand medicaid.

Until tomorrow,

Yours truly.

Larry Drain.