Exchange We Can Believe In

Wade Munday is a writer in Nashville. Governor Bill Haslam caved to the far right wing of his party over the decision for Tennessee to set up a state-based health insurance exchange. He says federal government can’t do for Tennesseans that which we can do for ourselves, and yet he’s going to allow the federal government to set up our exchange for us anyways. He is becoming a case study in self-contradiction. It is no more comforting that the ones making up his mind antagonize the same government that encourages free market principles by creating this health exchange. During a holiday season of giving, they bemoan the idea of limited government that helps the most vulnerable, and expensive, people in society. If you want government out of YOUR life, then couldn’t you achieve that by having government involved in the lives of others less fortunate? But that’s more about Medicaid expansion.

The federal government is willing to set up a health exchange for us, and we should be thrilled to accept it. If left to the legislature in this state, then the health insurance exchange could just as easily serve as the list of companies who contributed the most to Republican candidates in the last election.

Not so long ago Tennessee was a land of barefoot farmers and outhouses, and then Tennesseans’ lives were transformed by a federal project that brought rural electricity. That big government project saved a lot of lives, improved our prospects for lengthened life, and improved the lives of future generations. There’s a statue in downtown Nashville that shows a TVA man standing watch over an impoverished family, a single mother and her children. In those days, the federal government was concerned with the quaint notion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of indoor plumbing because, let’s face it, dysentery isn’t a way to happiness.

The decision not to set up a state-based health exchange for Republican Bill Haslam was a political calculation, another weak response to an established conservative legislature that doesn’t need to respond to the interests of the supermajority of Tennesseans that elected them. Instead, they and their governor are content to divine what’s best for their careers by sticking their thumbs in the political winds to see which way it blows. Unfortunately, most of us in this state are standing downwind.

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