Dems Meet Gov. Lee To Plead For Medicaid Expansion – Children’s Hospitals Against GOP Block Grant Idea

This week a group of Democratic state representatives met with Governor Lee to implore him to reconsider his stance against expanding Medicaid in Tennessee, as most states already have.

Studies show the states that have expanded Medicaid have seen better health results, economic benefits, and fewer rural hospital closures.

Tennessee is losing $26 Billion over 10 years by not accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion dollars that would cover hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans, including 30,000 veterans, and as a result currently leads the country in rural hospital closures per capita. The 13th rural Tennessee hospital just announced closure in Celina this week, and Democrats held an emotional press conference in the state capitol about it on Monday.

The group of Democrats calls itself the House Democratic Caucus Medicaid Expansion Task Force. They weren’t sure what kind of impact they had on Governor Lee, but said they’ll continue to try.

The general feeling was that the Williamson County-based governor doesn’t seem to understand how desperate for care some Tennesseans are, many of which don’t have another year or two left to wait for a new plan.

They did however say one thing Lee agreed with was preserving the provision of the Affordable Care Act that guarantees the protection of those with pre-existing conditions from discriminatory insurance company practices, which a Republican lawsuit in Texas seeks to undo.

From Rep. Gloria Johnson:

“We will try to continue the conversation, but it’s going to take the people rising up. The current Block Grant bill the Republicans have only takes current TennCare and turns it into block grants, probably serving fewer people than we even do now.”

The Block Grants proposal is something Tennessee Republicans are starting to push hard, with Senate leader Jack Johnson talking to the Tennessean about it this week.

Medicaid expansion is popular in Tennessee.

Block Granting Medicaid is not popular in America:

President Trump is trying to find a way to provide states like Tennessee with a block grant waiver, since they are currently illegal. Even if the president does manage to push that legislation through, it would instantly trigger lawsuits.

Meanwhile the details of the Tennessee Republicans’ Block Grants plan are “vague”, and nobody seems to be sure how it would solve the problem of covering MORE people who aren’t currently covered.

If anything the opposite would be true. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates recent Republican block grant proposals could cut Medicaid spending by as much as a third over the next decade. The cuts would start small, growing larger over the years.

Rep. Gloria Johnson also had this to say about Block Grants:

“Any waiver will instantly be challenged in court. This is not a good faith solution. This is folks who know they are getting hammered and want to appear as if they are doing something.”

It should also be noted that Children’s Hospitals, which rely heavily on Medicaid, are extremely against Block Grants, which they say would lead to cuts in coverage. Jim Kaufman, vice president of public policy for the Children’s Hospital Association, explained that proposals to simply block grant or shift costs to the states are the wrong way to go:

“Block grants cause cost-shifting that further burdens the financially strapped state budgets.  Instead, children’s hospitals want to improve access to care while reducing costs.”

And as Republican Senator John Chafee said in opposition to Medicaid block grants back in 1996:

“As states are forced to ration finite resources under a block grant, governors and legislators would be forced to choose among three very compelling groups of beneficiaries.

Who are they? Children, the elderly, and the disabled. They are the groups that primarily they would have to choose amongst. Unfortunately, I suspect that children would be the ones that would lose out.”

Just this week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was heard on a phone call explaining to donors that health care issues like this are the reason Republicans got shellacked in November, and that the pre-existing conditions issue was a particular weakness.

Republicans claim to be the ones protecting the provision, but since they are also suing to undo the provision at the same time nobody seems to be buying it.

Even if you aren’t covered by Medicaid, you probably know someone who would be affected by block granting Medicaid.

To encourage Governor Lee to start listening, holler at him HERE.

MUST BE NICE: New Nashville Tenant AMAZON Paid ZERO % In Taxes

It’s been known for a number of years that people who In amazon Investieren (invest in Amazon) are going to come out of the other side with a profit. It’s one of the biggest companies in the world and its growth doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. However, there has been an increasing number of calls for Amazon to pay tax and contribute more to society. The same week that we saw New York rise up behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against $3 Billion in corporate giveaways to Amazon, forcing Amazon to change its mind about setting up shop there, we now have a report from the Institute of Tax and Economic Policy which tells us that despite doubling their profits to $11 Billion last year, Amazon will still pay an incredible 0% in Federal taxes this year.]

Must be nice! Whereas many of us are scrambling for how to file a tax extension with accountants like http://daveburton.nyc/irs-file-tax-extension, Amazon has gotten away tax-free.

This is the 2nd year in a row the Trillion-Dollar company will pay 0%. Here’s a good thread on what Amazon was getting and why the backlash happened.

The report goes on to say this about the Republican “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, which made the claim that despite cutting the corporate tax rate almost in half from 35% to 21%, it would somehow incentivize corporate citizenship and investment:

“The tax law failed to broaden the tax base or close a slew of loopholes that allow profitable companies to routinely avoid paying federal and state income taxes on almost half of their profits… included lavish new giveaways… a huge revenue loser.”

Meanwhile the federal debt, which Republicans claim to be very concerned about despite the fact that their new tax law exploded the deficit, has just crossed the $22 Trillion mark, and many Americans are reporting that they’re feeling it in their tax refunds.

All while inequality is at levels not seen since the days leading up the The Great Depression, CEO pay has skyrocketed, and corporate stock buybacks – not investment and wages – are at all-time highs.

If you’re wondering why things like the Green New Deal are being proposed, look no further.

Instead of mocking ideas that seek to fix these problems, maybe those people should focus on the fact that most economic incentives are given to the biggest corporations while monopolization and the centralization of wealth are killing the everyday American, especially in rural America.

And let’s not forget about Wisconsin’s disastrous FoxConn boondoggle, where Koch brother favorite GOP Governor Scott Walker gave away billions to a company that has now had a change of heart, leaving Wisconsin taxpayers holding the bag.

This is something to keep an eye on as Amazon comes to Nashville, causing prices to spike for the people who are already there. The Republicans like to say we have low unemployment in Tennessee, which we do, but we’re also toward the bottom in how well our jobs pay.

$7.25 simply isn’t enough to live on, and Tennessee Republicans are the ones who refuse to raise the wage to a living one.

As Rep. Jason Hodges talked about in our interview with him, incentives may be necessary sometimes, but if companies want our support, they should have to pay our people a living wage.

Holler at the mayor and the governor to let them know we have our eye on the situation.

Tennessee Attorney General: Hate Crimes Law DOES Include Transgender People

Last year Senator Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) carried a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would have added gender identity and expression to the Tennessee hate crime law, making sure Transgender individuals were covered when targeted. Legislators decided not to move forward with the bill, in part because they thought “gender” already included transgender people.

With the help of Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), LGBT advocates recently asked the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for an official opinion about whether the law in fact cover transgender people as a hate crime, which would mean harsher sentences for anyone who targeted them.

The Verdict: Yes, the law covers them.

Attorney General Slatery’s opinion uses the Oxford definition of “gender” to explain that:

“A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender”

Meaning that a court CAN “enhance” a sentence if the defendant has targeted a transgender person.

The opinion was delivered by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III’s office to Rep. Mike Stewart this week.

The LGBT community has received this as great news, calling it a “good, solid victory.

From Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project:

“After hearing testimony in a legislative committee and considering the need to make sure transgender people have more protections, we followed a hunch and it worked. We are grateful to Rep. Mike Stewart for working diligently with us on this and to Sen. Sara Kyle, who carried the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill last year.”

Despite this win, there are still a number of discriminatory bills snaking their way through the legislature. Read about them here, and holler at your state reps to let them know hate has no home in Tennessee.

And while we’re here, some facts and myths about transgender people with regard to those bathroom bills, which are still around.

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 (like that you can see on https://www.canadacannabisdispensary.co/) 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. At this point, I’m pretty sure some medical patients that aren’t getting the help they need would rather some of the medical cannabis and something like this PAX 3 to consume their medicine. At least they could find some relief and also ease their anxiety regarding a “Medicaid expansion or Obamacare” that could come in the future and still seem to be useless.

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:

VIDEO: “HANDS OFF OUR C.O.B!” – Nashville Protests Gov. Lee-Supported Bill to Undercut Police Oversight Board

In November, after a lot of hard organizing work, the people of Nashville voted to approve a referendum that would give them a Community Oversight Board to hold Nashville’s police accountable.

Read more

REMINDER: Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill Hypocrite Hensley Had Affair with Cousin/Nurse/Patient, Divorced FOUR times

As we mentioned yesterday, Tennessee Republicans have unleashed a slew of discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation that seeks to allow state-sanctioned discrimination by businesses, and make it so that adoption agencies can refuse to allow LGBT parents to adopt.

State Senator Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsor of one of the anti-LGBT adoption  bills (SB 0848), had this to say in justification of his bill, which is being carried by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in the House:

“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles. That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents.”

“Certain lifestyles”… “Appropriate parents”…

Seems worth noting the hypocrisy of Senator Hensley, who has been married and divorced four times and who slept with his 2nd cousin who happened to be a nurse who worked for him (on a lapsed license) while also inappropriately prescribing her pain pills, while they were both married, being the one to drop a bill judging the “appropriateness” of others.

Read all about it in this Nashville Scene article.

The woman testified under oath about their affair, also detailing how she spent two nights with him in Nashville on the taxpayers’ dime.

We’re pretty sure The Bible Joey is using to justify this discrimination has a thing or two to say about his actions also.

It’s also worth noting that this is not the first time Hensley has gone all-out to persecute the LGBT community. He has been doing this for years.

From the Scene:

Hensley gained national notoriety in 2012 as a sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have banned public school teachers from even mentioning that homosexuality exists. During one hearing that year, Hensley commented, “I don’t think Modern Family is appropriate for children to watch” — because it features a married gay couple raising children. This session, Hensley is sponsoring a bill from the Tennessee Family Action Council that would make children created using donor sperm illegitimate — an attempt to make it harder for gay and lesbian parents to establish paternity.

Modern Family, senator? Seriously?

If you’re as appalled by Hensley’s Horrendous Hypocrisy as we are, holler at him HERE.

HERE WE GO AGAIN: TN Republicans Unleash Slew of Anti-LGBT Discrimination Bills

This week Tennessee Republicans have introduced a handful of bills that seek to legalize discrimination against Tennessee’s marginalized communities, targeting LGBT people specifically.

Up first, “The Business License to Discriminate Bill” is back. It passed the Tennessee Senate in 2017, but didn’t move in the House last year.

The bill – SB364/HB563 – put forth by Senator Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Jason Zachary, would:

“prohibit state and local governmental entities from taking discriminatory action against a business based on that business’s internal policies.”

By defending businesses from “discrimination” rather than people, what the bill really seeks to do is allow businesses to do the discriminating against marginalized communities without worrying about losing government contracts – which would essentially amount to taxpayer-funded discrimination against marginalized groups such as LGBT people, Muslims, etc.

As Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project puts it:

“If, for example, a business has a policy of not treating married same-gender couples the same as different-gender couples, government could not refuse to contract with them solely on that basis.”

Meanwhile, on the adoption front, multiple bills filed this week would allow adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections. This seems ridiculous. These are loving couples who want to help a child, but the image of people assuming they’ll only care about spending time on an SLS Dating Site, and the idea that they are somehow morally questionable for doing so, is causing such difficulties. It is clearly biased.

According to The Tennessean:

One bill, SB 0848/HB 1152, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, specifies that an adoption agency would not be required to provide services to a couple if it would conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and prevents the state or a local government from taking adverse action against the group.

Legislation filed by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, puts in place similar protections for discrimination based on religious beliefs and would prevent a couple from suing the adoption agency for refusing to provide services.”

Got that? One says the couple can’t sue, the other says the government can’t sue. Taken together, these two bills would allow adoption agencies to discriminate with impunity.

As Senator Joey Hensley openly admits:

“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles. That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents, so we didn’t want those agencies to not be able to provide adoptions.”

Not “appropriate” parents. Meanwhile studies show children have just as much chance to thrive with “certain” parents as with straight parents, and the number of children being raised by “certain” parents is in the hundreds of thousands.

More good information can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign and other organizations will join the Tennessee Equality Project in opposing this discriminatory legislation that Sanders says “does not put the interests of children first”.

It should be about the kids who need loving homes, not the bigotry of a few GOP legislators. If you agree, holler at Gardenhire, Zachary Hensley, Ragan, Rudd and let them know what you think.

 

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.