Posts

VIDEO: Gov. Lee Defends Rejecting $1 BILLION/Year In Medicaid Funds

“How is rejecting $1 BILLION/year in Medicaid Expansion funds helping TN’s rural communities?”

TN is #1 in MEDICAL BANKRUPTCIES & HOSPITAL CLOSURES. Maternal mortality of a 3rd world country.

Gov. Lee says a BLOCK GRANT means MORE💰, but facts disagree.

INTERVIEW: State Senator Raumesh Akbari on Vouchers & Medicaid Expansion

State Senator Raumesh Akbari talks about why Governor Lee’s public school-harming vouchers shouldn’t be rushed, and why Tennessee needs to expand Medicaid.

Listen to the PODCAST HERE.

FULL INTERVIEW:

CLIP: State Sen. Akbari on $1 BILLION In Unspent Aid: “FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD” 

TN GOP Rep. Ryan Williams Says TN Maternal Mortality “LIKE A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY”

Watch Republican Rep. Ryan Williams tell TennCare officials Tennessee is “like a third world country” when it comes to maternal mortality, thereby making a great case for MEDICAID EXPANSION, which his own party continues to block.

TN is #1 in Medical Bankruptcies and rural hospital closures per capita as a result.

TN GOP Majority Leader Rep. Lamberth Makes The Case for Medicaid Expansion

Watch TN GOP majority leader Rep. William Lamberth express regret that some Tennesseans are getting divorced to stay under the level needed to maintain health insurance, unwittingly making the case for Medicaid expansion – and more importantly universal health care/Medicare for All.

TN HEALTH CRISIS: Gov. Lee’s Finance Commish Answers Medicaid Expansion Questions (Very Poorly)

There’s been a lot going on, so it has taken us a bit to get to this, but a few weeks back The Tennessean had Governor Bill Lee’s finance commissioner Stuart Mcwhorter on their podcast to answer questions about the Rural Health Care “Task Force” they’ve assembled to try to address the nightmare that is rural health in Tennessee, where we’re #1 in MEDICAL BANKRUPTCIES and RURAL HOSPITAL CLOSURES PER CAPITA, at the bottom in infant and maternal mortality and opioid deaths, the list goes on.

Just last week we learned in 2017 alone there were 52 mothers who died preventably from lack of Tenncare, making it clear not expanding Medicaid is nothing short of policy murder.

Natalie Allison of The Tennessean asked Mcwhorter the questions. Understandably, The Tennessean had quite a few of them considering reporters were kept out of the closed-door task force meetings.

Below are some excerpts. You can listen to the whole interview HERE.

We’ll pick it up where Natalie asks Mcwhorter a very straightforward question:

NATALIE ALLISON: So obviously rural hospital closures is something we’ve heard a lot about from people who live in those areas who are concerned with that. The other thing is what you just mentioned – the number of uninsured people in the state. So what kind of feedback were you guys hearing on how the state can address that?

MCWHORTER: It’s the #1 question we got. And I think in light of the fact that we have a number of uninsured Tennesseans, you want to understand what the causes of those things are. Some of it is a lack of workforce opportunities. We were really making sure we were bringing that discussion into the fold, around economic development incentives for companies to relocate to rural parts of the state.

Notice that Mcwhorter immediately takes the question of stopping rural hospital closures and getting people insured to employment- anything to steer the conversation away from government-based solutions and towards “free market capitalism”, but even that is a bogus premise since Mcwhorter is already talking about how the government can encourage it through tax incentives (and what he would later refer to as “seed funding”).

TRANSLATION: They don’t mind government intervention as long as that intervention goes to corporations, rather than directly to us

This answer is also problematic for another reason: PEOPLE ARE HURTING NOW.

Again, we just found out over 50 mothers DIED from not having expanded Medicaid in 2017 alone. So while Lee & Mcwhorter assemble their “task force” and talk vaguely about economic incentives, 1 mother is dying unnecessarily each week.

This is nothing short of POLICY MURDER.

Another point: Mcwhorter is heralding employer-based insurance as the solution because they want to keep us reliant on our employers for insurance, because when we’re reliant on them, we’re compliant. Take GM canceling the insurance of striking UAW workers, for example.

As long as we depend on them for our health care, they know it will be much harder for workers to push back against our corporate overlords.

Mcwhorter continues:

MCWHORTER: If you aren’t employed and don’t have the skills, we tie in a lot of what we’re discussing with the governor’s initiatives around vocational education and focusing on some of the trades and technical education. But it starts even before that. You start really getting into some of the – I go back to the social determinants…

This is where it starts to get weird.

MCWHORTER: …if you can’t get a child immunizations, or early childhood reading, or things you really want to focus on when a child is born in the state, those things continue to compound over time, and won’t allow people to either get a job or get out of their circumstances. So we really try to get to the root causes of some of these issues.

As a reminder, the question is: How do we stop hospitals from closing and get people insured so they can see doctors.

Think about how far afield we’ve gone here. To address a question about hospitals closing NOW and people being uninsured NOW, Mcwhorter is talking about children being vaccinated and learning how to read, and how that may lead to them not having insurance as adults – because it makes them less employable.

Again, a mother is dying every week. This obvious deflection is not helping them NOW.

Stuart goes on:

MCWHORTER: And if they’re employed, hopefully they have access to their employer’s insurance. If they’re not employed, what can we be doing to train and educate so they can get employed.

They don’t want us reliant on government, but boy do they ever want us begging our bosses for our lives.

Also, a key word here was “hopefully”. We have a five-alarm health care fire in Tennessee, where again we’re #1 in MEDICAL BANKRUPTCIES and RURAL HOSPITAL CLOSURES PER CAPITA, and Bill Lee’s health care task force mouthpiece is saying “hopefully” if we address some of these issues today’s kids may get employer-based health insurance in 25 years or so.

It gets worse.

Mcwhorter then goes on to blame mental illness for why some people don’t have insurance.

Yes, seriously:

MCWHORTER: And if you’re still up against other issues that prevent that (meaning getting a job) – and a lot of it is mental. We’re all aware of what’s going on around the state with that. We’re trying to address the mental disorders, the opioid crisis, all the things that contribute to that as well.

Aside from the obviously insulting implication that the hundreds of thousands of low-income folks who are falling into the Medicaid gap are either mentally ill or addicted to opioids, there’s a glaring flaw in what Mcwhorter is saying here: Studies have found Medicaid expansion is critical for fighting the opioid crisis.

There’s a reason opioid deaths are going up in our state while they go down in the states around us – it’s because we didn’t expand Medicaid.

We’ve rejected $7 BILLION and counting. You think that wouldn’t help us deal with the opioid crisis and other issues? Of Course it would. That’s not politics, it’s math.

Natalie Allison then speaks again for the first time since asking the original question, and asks Mcwhorter directly about Medicaid expansion (thank you Natalie):

NATALIE ALLISON: There are people who for years have been saying EXPAND MEDICAID, EXPAND MEDICAID. I have a feeling that’s not going to be the strategy you all are gonna be recommending to the governor as part of this task force, since he’s made it clear that’s not something he’s going to do. Is that safe to say?

MCWHORTER: I think it’s safe to say. A couple things. One is – he said that. The way I interpret that is this is a long-term plan with a long-term solution we need to look at. It’s a heavy lift. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s easy to look at something that’s immediate – i.e. Medicaid Expansion – but I think there’s a deeper issue here that we really want to look at.

(Did we mention one mother is dying each week that didn’t have to die while Mcwhorter and Lee “look at” deeper issues with their “task force”?)

MCWHORTER: Now I say all that to say, the legislature did pass a law around the Block Grant. If we don’t negotiate something, that goes away. Does Medicaid Expansion come back? I don’t think it comes back just in the context of Medicaid Expansion. But I think the same principles that are around Medicaid Expansion… I mean the goal around Medicaid Expansion is to provide access, coverage to more people. That’s what our goal is. We’re trying to do the same thing, it’s just getting there is going to be a little different.

Why? You’re literally saying Medicaid expansion does the things you want to do. The tool is sitting there. Why not use it?

Politics, that’s why. Plain and simple. Also, it’s worth noting that the Block Grant Mcwhorter is talking about is A) Illegal probably, and B) DEEPLY unpopular. Nearly 1800 people spoke up about it at the public hearings last month, and a whopping NINE were in favor of it.

Back to the conversation – Natalie Allison picked up on Mcwhorter seeming to say Medicaid Expansion’s principles are what they want to accomplish, so she presses him on it:

NATALIE ALLISON: So you just said something really interesting – you said you might take the principles of Medicaid Expansion and apply that to whatever other solution you all would use as your Plan B. Can you talk a little bit more about that? And clarify whether Medicaid Expansion would be totally off the table for your recommendations?

MCWHORTER: I guess what I’m saying with the principle applies is the ultimate outcomes. The goal of
Medicaid Expansion is to provide more access – more insurance to more people – the Governor doesn’t disagree with that. We also have to be fiscally responsible. And so we have to look at the right balance.

“Fiscally responsible”? Is rejecting $7 Billion that would help our state “Fiscally responsible”? Who is that helping?

They love talking about running the state “like a business” – what boss wouldn’t be fired for rejecting an injection of $7 Billion?

If what Mcwhorter means is the state would’ve had to match 10% of the expansion dollars – our state’s own hospitals said they would COVER THE DIFFERENCE because they need the funds so badly, and wanted to stem the tide of hospital closures.

No, Governor. Rejecting Medicaid Expansion is the opposite of “fiscally responsible”. It’s both fiscally and morally irresponsible.

Our state is suffering. Our mothers are dying. There’s a reason our last Republican governor Haslam called not expanding Medicaid one of his biggest regrets.

Meanwhile Governor Lee and this Republican Supermajority, who we’ve just learned have been sitting on $730,000,000 in TANF block grant funds intended to help poor people, now want to get their hands on billions in Medicaid block grant dollars intended for poor people’s health care.

Downright terrifying.

After 5+ years of blocking Medicaid Expansion, you’d think they’d have better answers than this.

Employer-based coverage is sometimes adequate — IF it’s offered. Tennessee leads the nation in minimum wage jobs. Those workers should be able to go to the doctor too.

KANEW: Lee, State GOP Have Shown They Can’t Be Trusted With A Medicaid Block Grant

This op-ed by Holler co-founder Justin Kanew was originally seen in the Tennessean last week

Medicaid expansion would have been cost-free to Tennessee, yet former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan was blocked by his own party.

Gov. Bill Lee’s possibly illegal Medicaid block grant proposal would put billions of dollars Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens depend on in his hands and the hands of the Tennessee Republican supermajority with few strings attached. The plan gives them the incentive to spend as few of those dollars as possible by finding “savings” the state would then keep a portion of.

Beware of ‘savings’

If “savings” sounds like “cuts” to you, you’d be correct. That’s why the block grant pushers have been unwilling to promise no cuts, and why comments about the proposal have been almost entirely negative. The American Pediatric Association, the American Lung Association, doctors, patients, mothers, lawyers, state legislators, members of Congress — in short, nearly everyone who has spoken at this week’s public hearings has been staunchly against what they see as a bad deal for Tennessee. It’s a deal that will hurt the people who need our help the most — seniors, children, the disabled and the poor.

The specifics of a block grant are vague and complicated, but the bottom line is that Lee and the state’s Republicans are asking us to trust that they’ll do a better job of stretching those Medicaid dollars without the federal rules and oversight that are designed to protect those at risk.

But Lee and the GOP have already shown us they are undeserving of our trust. Medicaid expansion would have been cost-free to Tennessee, yet former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan was blocked by his own party, and in the aftermath 12 hospitals have closed, 300,000 people have gone unnecessarily uninsured, and we’ve lost $7 billion of our own federal tax dollars. Yet we have still not been given a good reason other than that it was President Barack Obama’s idea.

Now Tennessee leads the country in medical bankruptcies, rural hospital closures per capita, opioid deaths and infant mortality rates and is bringing up the rear in health care access. We have a four-alarm health care fire in Tennessee, and now we’re supposed to trust the party that refused buckets of water and let it burn to do the right thing with even less oversight and more “flexibility?”

Governor was a no-show

Lee has intentionally ducked this week’s public hearings while calling the very qualified professionals and parents speaking out against his block grant “misinformed.” But they’re not. They know the truth about what’s happening here in Tennessee and the irresponsible tragedy of not expanding Medicaid, and they simply don’t trust Lee to put Tennessee’s children, elderly, poor and most vulnerable ahead of money and politics this time around either.

“I had hoped Governor Lee’s religious faith would’ve given him more of a heart for the poor, especially as we anticipate the Day of Prayer he has called,” Rep. Jim Cooper said at the public hearing in Nashville this week. Amen, Jim. On that Day of Prayer, Lee might want to say one for his own soul, and the soul of his party.

“Faith without works is dead.” — James 2:17

Justin Kanew is a co-founder of the Tennessee Holler.

 

 

VIDEO: REP. CEPICKY & SEN. HENSLEY SCHOOLED ON MEDICAID EXPANSION

At a town hall in Maury County yesterday a local man named Greg Heller, who asked Rep. Scott Cepicky and Senator Joey Hensley why the TN GOP continues to block medicaid expansion and let Tennesseans die unnecessarily when expanding medicaid would cost the state nothing, and we lose $1.4 Billion every single year we don’t do it.

Tennessee is at the bottom in health care access, opioid deaths, infant mortality rates, the list goes on… we’re #1 in rural hospital closures per capita and medical bankruptcies. Medicaid Expansion would help all of it, and cost us nothing.

Also, important to remember – Cepicky says they want to “proceed with caution” when it comes to federal dollars, but TENNESSEE IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST FEDERALLY DEPENDENT STATES at 36% of the state budget. Do he and the TN GOP want to give that money back?

HOLLER AT YOUR REPS and tell them Greg’s right – there’s no excuse. Expand Medicaid.

VIDEO: Governor Lee CONFRONTED Over Medicaid Expansion

Watch Governor Lee get confronted recently in Meigs County about not expanding Medicaid by Anna Grabowski, whose friend she says might be alive otherwise.

Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies and rural hospital closures, and has lost $7 Billion and counting as a result of this purely political decision.

Bill Lee’s Medical Poverty Tour

This post was first seen on the TN Citizen Action Blog. Follow @TNCitizenAction for more.

On Friday, Governor Bill Lee toured rural counties in southern middle Tennessee touting what he called his legislative accomplishments.

It’s worth noting that the counties he toured are home to residents with crushing medical debt. Additionally, many citizens in these counties face a lack of access to health insurance. While Lee failed to apologize for his health policy failures, the citizens of this area and all of Tennessee should be holding Lee accountable.

His steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid — at no cost to Tennessee taxpayers — is creating a crisis in a state that already leads the nation in both rural hospital closures and medical debt.

Here’s more (data from The Sycamore Institute) on the state of healthcare in each of the counties Lee visited:

Giles County

28% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

Between 11% and 14% of Giles County residents do not have health insurance

Lawrence County

30% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Lawrence County residents do not have health insurance

Lincoln County

26% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

8-11% of Lincoln County residents do not have health insurance

Bedford County

33% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Bedford County residents do not have health insurance

Percent-of-Tennesseans-without-Health-Insurance-2012-2016-1

According to Andy Spears, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action:

“Bill Lee’s stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid is an absolute policy failure. The current state of healthcare in these counties and all across our state is unacceptable. We lead the nation in rural hospital closures. We lead the nation in medical debt. Instead of announcing a plan to move forward and improve the lives of the residents of these counties, Lee is busy selling the snake oil of his Administration’s ‘success’. It’s disappointing and shameful. Tennesseans in Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, and Bedford counties and all over our state deserve straight talk and real solutions.”

Bill Lee Fail

For more on our work fighting for healthcare, follow @TNCitizenAction

Ogles & Casada Skip Williamson County “Legislative Update”

This morning in Franklin was the monthly Williamson County “Legislative Update”, hosted by Williamson Inc.

The event was called a “Town Hall” until recently, but the name was apparently changed after former State House candidate Rebecca Purington called them out for calling it a “Town Hall” without actually taking questions.

Fair point, Rebecca.

They stopped taking questions after Ashley Massey stood up and pinned Williamson legislators to the wall about their silence about Rep. David Byrd, who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he molested them in high school.

Byrd remains in office to this day, but how long he lasts remains to be seen since his chief protector Glen Casada will be resigning his speakership in shame in the coming days.

Casada was not at the “Legislative Update”, apparently getting some sun in Greece.

Casada’s pal Brandon Ogles also skipped the meeting, letting the organizers know at 530AM this morning that he had a sudden “rotator cuff ” injury. (mm hmmmm)

 

The only Williamson legislators to show up were Sam Whitson and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Below are some clips of a few of the subjects they covered.

Whitson talked about the passage of the Katie Beckett Waiver, which keeps parents of disabled children from having to make impossible decision to keep their kids on insurance.

No word on why that logic shouldn’t apply to the 300,000 other Tennesseans faced with the very same decisions, who don’t have insurance because of the Republican refusal to expand Medicaid, which costs Tennessee billions of dollars each year.

After the meeting Senator Johnson answered our question about the “Heartbeat Bill”, which seeks to ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest – which means a raped teenage girl would have to carry her rapist’s child to term.

The film industry has recently said they w0n’t do business in Georgia if their similar bill becomes law. When asked what Johnson would say to industries that may have the same issue with Tennessee  were Tennessee’s bill to pass, his answer:

“Go back to California.”