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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.”

VIDEO: BLOCK GRANTS VS. MEDICAID EXPANSION (Floor Debate Highlights)

Tennessee has lost $3.1 Million every single day since refusing to expand medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which amounts to over $7 Billion and counting. 300,000 Tennesseans remain without coverage as a result, including 25,000 veterans.

The state leads the country in rural hospital closures, which even some Republicans say would be helped by expanding Medicaid.

Governor Haslam wanted to expand Medicaid. 37 other states have expanded Medicaid, including in “Red” states like Louisiana, to very positive results.

Instead, Tennessee’s Republicans are trying to have the Federal Government send the funding to the state in the form of a block grant, despite the warnings of many experts, who point out that block grants would cover fewer people, not more, and would do nothing to address the health care inequities in our state or to help with rural hospital closures.

Watch the FLOOR DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS:

The refrain from Republicans like Rep. Andy Holt is that we shouldn’t get “tangled up” with the federal government – which seems to ignore the fact that Tennessee is already tangled up with it plenty – between, the TVA, the V.A., Fort Campbell, Medicare, Social Security, SNAP, Oak Ridge National Lab, K-12 Federal funding, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the list goes on.

In fact, for every $1 Tennessee sends to the Federal Government it receives $1.46 in Federal spending.

This isn’t fiscal responsibility, it’s putting politics ahead of people.

RESPONSE: Mark Green & Co. Are the Real “Radicals”

Justin Kanew ran for Congress against Rep. Mark Green in the 7th District in 2018. He wrote this in response to Green’s op-ed in the Tennessean this week, where Green asked: “Are the Democrats Ok With The Party’s Leftward March?”

First of all – Hi, Mark! Been a while. I haven’t seen you since you were refusing to debate me in our congressional race.

Since then we saw each other in Franklin, where you accused me of falsely accusing you of leading the fight against Medicaid expansion (despite your own endorsement saying you did),  while also saying it was wrong of me to point out that you did it while declaring government programs like Medicaid “keep people from a saving knowledge of who God is”.

These “Radical” statements are all on video… the tape doesn’t lie…


What makes it even more unconscionable is that you yourself were on a state health care plan. But I digress.

I’m writing here to answer the question you just posed in the Tennessean, where you asked: “Are the Democrats Ok With The Party’s Leftward March?”

You must’ve sat down to write that after your grandstanding at the Michael Cohen hearing, where you oddly didn’t seem to care at all about the multiple crimes the president may have committed – which most Americans believe he has.

Sorry, there I go digressing again.

Ok, let’s get down to it. I’m here to address your question. In short, the answer is a resounding YES.

YES, I’m ok with Democrats attempting to address the very serious problems of Gilded Age levels of inequality and climate change, which your party continues to claim is a hoax on behalf of the billionaires who finance your campaigns despite the fact that their own science has been telling them climate change is real for decades.

(Say hi to the Kochs for me, by the way. Maybe you’ll see them at your next ALEC meeting.)

You and I both just ran for congress in TN-7. If you were looking out the window as you went from photo op to photo op you may have noticed the harsh truth that not every county in Tennessee is Williamson County.

Rural Tennessee is hurting. But instead of doing everything within your power to help keep uninsured Tennesseans and rural hospitals afloat through medicaid expansion, or extending a helping hand to regular folks through a living wage, real tax relief, standing with unions, etc. – you mock every effort to help everyday Tennesseans as “socialism”.

Let’s be clear: “Socialism” is literally “a government takeover of the means of production”.

Nobody is advocating for that.

What I and almost every progressive I know actually want is to level the playing field and stop the over-concentration of wealth and power you and your pals facilitate at every turn.

You mock the Green New Deal, but I’ll take an over-ambitious plan to deal with the harsh realities we face over a corrupt deal with the Big Everything devil any day of the week. (Reminder: One of us refused PAC money of any kind during our race, and it wasn’t you.)

One can only imagine what you would have said about FDR’s New Deal, which most of your constituents have greatly benefitted from for generations, which helped bring us OUT of the Great Depression – a depression outrageous levels of inequality and policies like the ones you support helped get us into.

A refresher: The New Deal included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA)…

…It provided support for farmers, the unemployed, youth and the elderly…

…It included new constraints and safeguards on the banking industry… and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen sharply…

You would’ve HATED it.

As for the specifics of the Green New Deal you mock, let’s talk about what you actually said:

“The visionaries behind this massive bill are hoping to eliminate air travel, gut and rebuild every building in America, eliminate 99% of cars, eliminate nuclear energy and ban affordable energies like natural gas.”

This is obviously a childish over-exaggeration and mischaracterizes it completely. Hard not to wonder if you’ve even actually read it.

The Green New Deal isn’t a bill. It’s a non-binding resolution. A set of goals. A starting point, and a good one.

It’s a broad outline of how to achieve objectively positive, popular outcomes like universal health care, truly full employment, and 100% renewable energy- lifting up people who need lifting up in very real ways.

And you’re against all of it.

Nobody is eliminating planes. Nobody is eliminating cars.

The fact that you have to resort to these untruths about what the Green New Deal actually is just goes to show how little the truth actually means to you.

On Universal Health Care, which every single industrialized nation has except for us, you seem to have no use for it whatsoever. There are a number of different ideas about how to get to Universal Health Care – where people would be able to see a doctor when they get sick rather than a bankruptcy attorney – and you support none of them.

Instead you talk about Health Savings Accounts, which sound nice but do nothing to cover more vulnerable Tennesseans, and you support Block Grants, which do nothing to help rural hospitals (and also happen to be illegal and are opposed by Children’s hospitals).

Meanwhile Tennessee loses nearly $4 Million every DAY by not expanding Medicaid, which was in large part your handiwork, keeping hundreds of thousands uninsured and letting rural hospitals close.

Governor Haslam calls it one of his biggest regrets.

Meanwhile, you mock others who try to actually address the problem.

This is what you – a doctor – had to say about Bernie’s “Medicare For All” plan, which is just one of a number of ideas about how to get to universal coverage:

“Cautious estimates of the cost of Sanders’ plan start at $32.6 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Even if we implement the most aggressive tax plan to seize and redistribute wealth from the top 1 percent we only raise $720 billion over 10 years, or 2 percent of what Medicare for All costs. And, keep in mind our revenue over that same period will only be approximately $40 trillion – unless, of course, this bill is passed and we tailspin towards a second Great Depression.”

Newsflash Doc, much of this country is already hurting. I know you spent much of our race in hiding, but if you had come to Columbia when Remote Area Medical was in town you would’ve seen hundreds of people lined up in a parking lot at 5AM just to see a doctor- because they literally couldn’t afford to get care any other way.

Remote Area Medical visited Knoxville recently too:

Over half this country can’t withstand a $400 emergency without going broke.

This is not how it should be in the richest country in the world. I challenge you to go to one of these RAM sites and tell these families you’re the one who “led the fight” to keep them from having health coverage.

As for the cost of Medicare For All – you convenienently left out that it would mean NO MORE PREMIUMS OR DEDUCTIBLES, and that what we have now is ALREADY too expensive.

We spend 18% of our GDP on Health Care while the next highest country spends 12%, and that $32.6 Trillion number you cited is actually LESS than the estimates of what our current system costs, according to a conservative think tank’s estimate.

Another gross mischaracterization.

Not to mention the savings that would come from suffering Tennesseans being able to see a doctor before their ailments get worse and more expensive.

I happen to believe we need something like our education system, where everyone has access to a baseline of Medicare or something like it (a la public schools), and then those who can afford it can buy private insurance for themselves (a la private schools).

But we need to cover everyone. It’s time.

Which brings us to your first point, which I’m saving for last because I find it the most gruesome. This is what you said about the Democratic position on “late-term abortion”:

“Let’s begin with infanticide. Are Democrats truly accepting killing babies outside the womb now? A Democrat head of a state, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, last month casually defended it.

He explained to radio listeners that an infant already delivered “would be kept comfortable” while a mother and doctor discussed letting the child die. When pressed for clarification, he explained that the scenario he envisioned involved a baby with deformities.

Assuming he meant Down syndrome or something similar – this is an outrageous claim. If you go and ask people with Down syndrome – they think they’re life is worth living.”

I’ll start with a concession: Northam’s words were clumsy.

No, Democrats should not be for “killing babies outside the womb”, as you put it. And they are not. No Democrat I know is for infanticide.

But nonviable births are not “infanticide”.

Do you know a mother who has gone through something like that, Mark? I do. A good friend of mine.

I challenge you to call her a murderer to her face, if that’s what you believe. She’s in Lawrenceburg. She lives with the pain of losing a child every single day. You’ve met her.

You say “assuming he meant Down syndrome or something similar” – that’s one HELL of an assumption, doc. For a doctor, no less.

You know damn well that’s not what a nonviable birth is.

So yes, Democrats are AGAINST “killing babies outside the womb” and “late term abortions”.

We’re also AGAINST forcing women who have been raped to carry their rapist’s baby to term… and FOR expanding medicaid… and FOR common sense gun safety legislation… and FOR making birth control available… and FOR subsidizing day care for low income women… and FOR raising the wage to a living one… and FOR real tax reform that will put more money in the pockets of your constituents rather than corporations and the wealthy.

These are all “pro-life” positions. You’re against ALL of them.

And every last one of them has the support of a vast majority of Americans.

Who’s the “Radical” again?

You mock these ideas as “socialism”, which either means you failed civics, or you’re not quite as committed to the truth as you say you’d like Michael Cohen to be.

You also mock the idea of giving jobs to those willing to work to rebuild our country, which is another popular idea (as is The Green New Deal by the way!) and you do it in the name of *fiscal responsibility*  while the president you refuse to criticize has exploded the deficit to hand tax cuts to people who need it the least – like him, and you.

So in summation: If a “leftward march” means supporting health care for the people of our district, dealing with inequality in a real way to help real Tennesseans, and addressing the issue of climate change head-on for the sake of our children rather than burying our heads in the sand at the behest of the Koch brothers… then count me all the way in.

It’s not a “leftward” march. It’s a forward march.

I’ll take progress over greed any day of the week.

As this country gets younger and more inclusive, this is what the people want. Just because you call it “socialism” doesn’t make it so.

In the meantime, enjoy the $8 Billion farmer bailout that you for some reason don’t count as “socialism”, and the constitution-shredding *national emergency* you support. I’m sure the Fort Campbell School and other Clarksville-area projects it would take $132 Million from will be just fine.

So if by “Radical” you mean we support drastic measures to address the significant challenges we face, then yes we’re the radicals. But if by “Radical” you mean extremely out of step with the majority of this country – and yes, Tennessee – on most of these issues, then it’s you who is the “Radical”, sir.

Wanting to help people isn’t “Radical”, Mark. “Radical” is blocking medicaid expansion while saying government programs give suffering Tennesseans the opportunity to know God.

And history will not remember the Radical things you’re doing here kindly.

(P. S. – I enjoy that you cited Obama as a centrist at the end of your op-ed. Nice to see you’ve dropped your birtherism act. You, sir, are no John Mccain  – no wonder he helped block your Army Secretary bid. Not even getting to a senate hearing with a Republican-controlled congress? Talk about “Radical”.)

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

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.