FALSE ALARM: Lt. Gov. Mcnally Almost Backs Medicaid Expansion By Mistake

On the Tennessean’s Grand Divisions podcast with Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison this week, Tennessean writer Natalie Allison asked what bills will be most controversial this session, and after listing Medical Marijuana and school vouchers Lt. Gov. Randy Mcnally went on to mention Medicaid Expansion:

Mcnally told the Tennessean:

“On Medicaid Expansion… Senator Bailey is working on some different ideas to take and work with the governor on and try to get an amendment through that would address the population that’s below 138% of the poverty level. And address it on a sliding scale voucher type thing, health savings accounts, there’s a number of different options that we haven’t really fleshed out yet.”

“Under 138% of the poverty level” is where Medicaid expansion would draw the line. What Mcnally was talking about sure sounded a lot like Medicaid expansion. So Natalie Allison asked him about that:

“So will Republicans be pushing a bill to expand Medicaid in some instances, or…?”

Still sounding a bit confused, Mcnally went on:

“Well we’ll be I think looking at an effort to… a lot depends on what we think we can through CMS, but we’re looking at an effort to address the population that probably was most in need of insurance but was left out of health care… Our hope is it’s not expansion of Medicaid, it’s not Obamacare, and that’s – we’re just trying to take care of sick people that lack insurance mainly because they’re incomes are not at a rate that they can afford it.”

So it’s not Medicaid, or Obamacare, it just attempts to do the exact things Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare was trying to do… JUST FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T CALL IT MEDICAID EXPANSION OR OBAMACARE.

This might be a good time to point out that Medicaid Expansion is popular in Tennessee.

Still confused because Mcnally was sounding pretty pro-Medicaid expansion, the Natalie Allison pressed further:

So… you’re saying it’s not Medicaid expansion?”

At this point Senator Jack Johnson swoops in, noticing Mcnally is flailing and maybe almost about to support something that would actually help a lot of people, which would be truly awful.

Sen. Johnson:

 “It absolutely is not… I want to be very clear about that, it’s not a proposal to expand medicaid. It’s a proposal to give us more flexibility with our existing medicaid dollars, ok? And if we’re given that flexibility we believe we can generate savings that will generate additional dollars with which we might be able to cover some additional people, or provide better services- better quality services. That’s one conversation and that needs to stay in its lane right there. Any conversation of drawing down additional federal dollars is a totally different conversation, ok? And I think maybe during some of this those two things have gotten interwoven.”

So if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans without coverage, good news – maybe what they’re proposing might cover some other people if they can scrounge up some loose change somewhere, but as for the $26 Billion over 10 years the federal government wants to send us to cover you, that’s a still big NO THANK YOU — because who wants that?
They know they need to seem like they’re trying to help people get the care they need – but actually helping people would be a bridge too far.
Basically their block grant proposal is to take the money that is supposed to go towards health insurance for low-income people in a lump sum, and trust that the guys who up until now haven’t seemed to care that vulnerable Tennesseans can’t get the care they need will A) make sure it goes to the right place, and B) Be able to make those dollars go further somehow.
That’s some plan.
The Tennessean reporters then went on to commiserate about how confusing the whole thing was. Natalie Allison:
“All the reporters sitting there were pretty confused. We thought he was saying Republicans were going to launch a medicaid expansion effort this session. We eventually realized that wasn’t the case and went on to talk about the block grant program.”
She then pointed out that it remains to be seen how they would actually secure coverage for those currently in the coverage gap:
“When we asked them how they were going to pay for that, there isn’t really a clear answer… the bill itself is pretty vague.”
As Rep. John Ray Clemmons and Gloria Johnson say in the video below, the Republican-proposed block grants may not even be legal, won’t cover anyone new, and won’t help rural hospitals.
It doesn’t fix the problem.
It’s time to expand Medicaid like most of the country already has. It would help a lot of people, and pay for itself. Let the Republicans call it whatever they want, let’s just do it.
Holler at Governor Lee if you agree.

VIDEO: “Please Expand Medicaid, Governor Lee. People Are Dying.” – A Cry For Help As Another Rural Hospital Closes

This week we learned Clay County’s Cumberland River Hospital would be shutting its doors, making it the 13th rural Tennessee hospital to shutter since the Republican refusal to expand Medicaid took hold.

The numbers show rural hospital closures are far more common in states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Hospitals in Medicaid expansion states were 84 percent less likely to face hospital closures than their peers in non-expansion states, a new Health Affairs study shows.

As part of a #WeAreCelina Day of Action yesterday, in solidarity with Celina and Clay County, Democratic officials Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Rep. London Lamar, Rep. Mike Stewart, Rep, Gloria Johnson and Rep. Dwayne Thompson held a press conference at the capitol, where they were joined by Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini and cancer survivor/Medicaid recipient Kelly Gregory.

Gregory gave an emotional presentation, and all 5 Democratic reps called on Governor Lee and the Republicans to put politics aside and accept the federal dollars to expand Medicaid as the previous Republican Governor wanted to, pointing out that every year that goes by Tennessee loses billions of dollars – $26 Billion over a decade, in fact – and more people will die unnecessarily as hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans are left without health insurance.

Below is video from the press conference:

OPINION: “That is not infanticide. I know. I went through it.”

This week, before the racist images on his yearbook page came out, Virginia’s Governor Northam’s comments about a proposed late-term abortion bill caused a stir. 

Read more

CLAY COUNTY TO GOV. LEE: “HELP US!” – Hospital Closure Day of Action Planned for Monday

Last week yet another of Tennessee’s rural hospitals announced it would be closing its doors, bringing the total up to a dozen – the most per capita of any state in the country.

This time it’s Clay County’s Cumberland River Hospital falling on hard times.

Read more

STATE OF THE STATE: Unhealthy, Impoverished, Underfunded Ed, Low Pay… But Cheap!

Our friends at Think Tennessee have just put out their yearly breakdown of where Tennessee stacks up with the other states on important things like opioid prescriptions (49th), poverty (41st), education funding (45th), Adult diabetes (45th), infant mortality (47th), mental health providers (45th) life expectancy (44th), and much more.

Some people are doing very well in our state, but on the whole the news is really not very good. We’re unhealthy, there’s a lot of poverty, our education is underfunded, and the jobs – although we have them – don’t pay well.

We deeply appreciate that Think Tennessee does this, and have made a video out of what they’ve found. If you enjoy it, feel free to share on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or anywhere else you spend your time.

Meet Rep. Hodges: “TN Needs Medicaid Expansion, Medical Marijuana, Decent Pay“

This week The Holler had a chance to catch up with Jason Hodges, the Freshman TN State Representative out of Clarksville. Hodges is a veteran, a young husband and a dad who just recently beat out Tommy Vallejos for the seat Joe Pitts left behind to go run the city as mayor.

We asked Jason what he’s focused on as the legislative session gets going, and he rattled off some priorities:

“First of all, I think we really need to get some big ticket items like Medicaid Expansion and Medical Marijuana done. They’d lower the cost of health care, which is something both parties agree needs to happen.”

With yet another rural hospital announcing they’ll be closing their doors in Clay County this month, Medicaid expansion is at the top of the list for Democrats, and Hodges really hopes their Republican counterparts will finally see how much damage is being done.

“We’ve lost $6 Billion and counting because they don’t like Obama. I promise you, if Trump wanted to give us $6 Billion to take care of our people, or fix up our roads, we’d take it. People should come before politics. If you want to bring costs down, start there. We can do that tomorrow. “

With regard to Medical Marijuana, Hodges says it comes up in Clarksville often, where constituents would prefer to be treating their various ailments and mental health issues with MM rather than opioids and other more addictive medications.

“In many circumstances Medical Marijuana would further reduce cost when it comes to prescriptions. It can be a substitute for high-priced opiates and help reduce addiction. It’s just a cheaper, safer alternative, and we need to get it done. Every year that goes by where we don’t decriminalize it and make it available, more  Tennesseans suffer needlessly.”

Although Democrats are a super-minority in the legislature, as a group they support Medical Marijuana, and it seems more and more Republicans are starting to come their way. Hodges also points out the economic impact it would have, especially in rural Tennessee:

“I’d like to see us tie it to Tennessee farms. Let’s make it so that any marijuana sold in Tennessee has to be produced in Tennessee. It’ll help our rural economies, and give those communities and our farmers an alternative product to produce – while helping with the opioid crisis and the cost of medicine. It’s a win all around. We trust our doctors to prescribe opiates, which is what heroin comes from, but we don’t trust them to prescribe marijuana? Makes no sense.”

Hodges was also eager to talk about the voting rights bill he’s carrying, which would make it so that any state application you fill out would mean you’re automatically registered to vote.

“SNAP, the DMV… any state application you fill out you need the exact same paperwork as you do to get registered to vote. We should be making it easier on folks, not harder. Anyone who disagrees with that would appear not to be a huge fan of democracy.”

The subject then turned to economic incentives for companies coming to Tennessee, in light of Electrolux announcing they’d be closing their plant in Memphis and moving those jobs to Springfield. Hodges had this to say:

“Look, If we’re gonna subsidize a company to come to Tennessee we should make sure they’re paying a living wage. If they don’t, they should be fined, and the subsidy should be paid back. We can’t subsidize companies who don’t pay people enough to live just so those people then have to be subsidized by the government. That’s corporate welfare. If you want to come to Tennessee, great- you need to treat our people right.”

Seems pretty reasonable. Is he against incentives in general? A passionate Hodges insisted he wasn’t.

“No, I’m not against incentives as a concept. But if the taxpayers are on the hook let’s make sure what we’re getting is worthwhile. There are situations from a competitive standpoint where we have to subsidize to get a company to come here, but at the same time how are we going to pay a company who won’t pay a living wage – then turn around and blame people for mooching off the government? It kills me.”

Pretty sensible ideas. As Hodges gets more and more comfortable in his new role, we look forward to seeing what he can get done up there. Holler at him HERE.

Channel 5 Puts A Face On TN’s Coverage Gap

Yesterday’s News Channel 5 broadcast contained a powerful segment about the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans stuck in the “coverage gap” thanks to the TN GOP’s refusal to expand medicaid, which has cost our state $6 Billion and counting and helped us lead the country in rural hospital closures per capita. Read more

Even Radical Pro-Life Group Doesn’t Support “Unconstitutional” Heartbeat Bill

Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to perform or obtain an abortion in Tennessee after a fetal heartbeat is detected, with the only exception being a medical emergency – a bill that was already struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Iowa.

The Bill has the support of both Governor Lee and Glen Casada, who told the Associated Press that he thinks it’s “a fight worth having in front of the Supreme Court.”

Even Tennessee Right to Life, a group that advocates against abortions, opposes the measure because they believe it would not survive legal challenges. It’s similar to one that was introduced in 2017 that the then Tennessee Attorney General also called “constitutionally suspect” which failed in large part due to lack of support from Tennessee Right to Life.

This bill – HB 0077 – would essentially make it a crime to provide OR receive an abortion after 8 weeks (when a fetal heartbeat is detectable), with the only exception exception being a medical emergency.

There’s no mention of rape, incest or mental health exceptions.

Many women do not even know they’re pregnant before 8 weeks, and abortion restrictions disproportionately affect low income women.

Close to 70,000 women a year die from unsafe abortion and numerous others suffer grave injuries, including infection, hemorrhaging, and infertility. Half of all pregnancies in this country are unintended, and, of those, half end in abortion.

This bill would do nothing to reduce unintended pregnancies, which is what abortion reduction laws should focus on. According to the CDC:

  • In 2006, 49% of pregnancies were unintended—a slight increase from 48% in 2001.

  • Among women aged 19 years and younger, more than 4 out of 5 pregnancies were unintended.

  • The proportion of pregnancies that were unintended was highest among teens younger than age 15 years, at 98%.

  • Large increases in unintended pregnancy rates were found among women with lower education, low income, and cohabiting women.

The National Institutes of Health tells us there are several approaches that have been shown to be effective in reducing unintended pregnancies:

  • Ensure birth control and family planning is freely available to adolescents and adults

  • Sex education programs, which provide information on abstinence and contraceptive use and do NOT encourage the onset of sexual intercourse nor increase the frequency of intercourse among adolescents. (In fact, quite the opposite)

  • Expand Medicaid (as most other states have) so low-income mothers can have access to family planning  and prenatal care that helps prevent birth defects.

Medicaid is pro-life. Rejecting $6 billion of our own federal dollars isn’t making mothers or children any safer. We should join the majority of the country and expand medicaid now.

Rep. Jim cooper has a bill that would give us even less excuse for not doing it.

Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) responded to the Heartbeat bill by telling The Holler: “We need to trust women. It’s a rights issue. If you don’t allow a woman to make decisions about her own body, you don’t believe in equal rights.” Johnson continued, “We do not need the government in our doctors’ offices. It’s always one of those ‘small government’ guys who comes in with a bill to regulate women’s health care.” 

 

6 in 10 women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Holler at Governor Lee or Van Huss or Casada to let them know what you think.

 

REP. WINDLE: “Medicaid Expansion Would Ease Rural Hospitals’ Burden”

This week we learned Clay County would lose yet another rural hospital, putting Tennessee into the double digits and cementing our place as the per capita leader in rural hospital closures.

Last night WSMV ran a piece on the situation, visiting with citizens, EMT’s and local officials to hear about the strain this would now put on the community. Read more

STUDY: 68,000 Rural Parents & Kids Lose Coverage Under TN GOP Plan

Instead of accepting the billions of dollars we lose each year and simply expanding Medicaid like many other “red” states already have – and they don’t regret it – Tennessee Republicans want permission to impose a work reporting requirement on poor parents and caregivers who get coverage through Medicaid.

What would this mean?

A new study from Georgetown tells us this would mean 68,000 of our most vulnerable families lose coverage, mainly in rural areas, and THEIR KIDS WILL SUFFER THE MOST.

Key Findings

  • In Arkansas 23 percent of affected adults lost their health insurance. If Tennessee has a similar outcome, approximately 68,000 parents will lose their Medicaid coverage.
  • The new rules would predominantly affect Tennessee’s poorest mothers in small towns and rural communities.
  • Even if these parents work more hours, they are unlikely to have an offer of health coverage from their employers.
  • The loss of coverage for parents would affect their children, creating more financial hardship for families and risking children’s access to health care. Tennessee was one of nine states to see a significant increase in children lacking health coverage in 2017.

As yet another rural hospital closes in Clay County, there’s simply no excuse for not expanding Medicaid at this point.