Archive for May, 2015

The Battle Over Insure Tennessee

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The battle over Insure Tennessee wages on and a series of interesting revelations have been uncovered since Governor Haslam unveiled his Insure Tennessee Plan.

In February, records were provided that showed Republicans voting against Haslam’s Insure Tennessee were themselves on the state health plan, which funds 80 percent of employee premiums. These Senators were Health Committee Chairman Rusty, Mike Bell, Sen. Brian Kelsey, Sen. Frank Niceley, and Sen. Kerry Roberts.

In April, the Tennessean continued its investigation of Insure Tennessee and laid out the financial losses to Tennessee because of Republican political games.

If the Tennessee General Assembly had passed the Insure Tennessee plan to extend insurance coverage to the working poor, about $3.1 million would have been spent daily in Tennessee doctor’s offices, pharmacies and hospitals.

Instead, today, thousands of sick Tennesseans do without care or visit emergency rooms at the expense to Tennessee taxpayers. To date, an estimated 800 Tennesseans have died awaiting Health Care Coverage since Tennessee was eligible for ObamaCare coverage.

The Insure Tennessee plan proposed by Haslam, and rejected by a fearful legislature with virtually no debate, would have been one of the best economic stimulus programs for small towns and rural communities in this state.

A University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research study released in January “estimated that the average person who enrolled in Insure Tennessee would “spend” about $5,700 each year on health care and that 200,000 Tennesseans would enroll in the various plans proposed by the governor to help the working poor who make too much for Medicaid insurance and not enough to qualify for the subsidies offered on the federal health insurance exchange”.

The study also projected that expanded insurance coverage would bring about $1.14 billion of spending into the state from the federal funds earmarked for Medicaid expansion when Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

The spending generated from Insure Tennessee would create an economic boom, creating or maintaining about 15,000 jobs, mostly in our rural counties, where the bulk of those eligible live. The $1.14 billion would mostly flow into the paychecks of Tennesseans, adding over $900 million to their income.

Most of that $900 million would be spent in local businesses. And so on … get the picture. Obviously, Republican hatred of President Obama trumped any chances of economic boom for Tennessee. Their fear of being primaried by fellow wing-nuts also trumped economic benefit to Tennessee.

The opposite of an economic boom is what our legislator’s want, a vicious cycle of delaying health care until it becomes a crisis, or an act of charity, and/or paid for by the rest of us. The decision of our legislature has created a living on the edge mentality where financial disaster and ruin, for many, is a simple accident away from destroying a Tennessee family.

It is hard to recall a time when the General Assembly has so ignored the wishes of a business and Tennesseans. A recent Vanderbilt poll showed two out three Tennesseans want/support Insure Tennessee.

Early this month the Tennessee Legislature got excited when the Tennessean exposed the fact that many of the same folks who voted to deny poor Tennesseans health care coverage, are covered by health care, on the backs of Tennessee taxpayers.

Taxpayers have paid almost 6 million for health care for these hypocrites since 2008. Several lawmakers tried to stop the release of how much money the state spends on their individual health premiums. They argued the release of the information would violate privacy laws.
While Republicans have fought to keep expenditures on their health care private, Democrats have been supportive of the release.

“It is the ultimate in hypocrisy,” said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus who is enrolled in the health plan. “To refuse to provide for the working poor of Tennessee, while trying to keep the insurance benefits they receive a secret illustrates their [Republicans] contempt for Tennesseans.”

PREMIUM COSTS

Lawmaker – Years on Plan – Lawmakers Contribution – Taxpayer Contribution
Sen. Rusty Crowe – 1992-2015 – $48,162.32 – $202,730.79
Rep. Beth Harwell – 1992-2015 – $49,242.94 – $198,134.99
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey – 1993-2015 – $44,924.74 – $187,796.77

NOTE: Records only go back to 1992. They may have received coverage for a longer period.

As revelations related to Insure Tennessee have been unveiled, activists across the state have taken action to pressure legislatures to support Insure Tennessee. In NETN, activists have purchased ½ page ads in various area newspapers designed to put pressure on Rusty Crowe and Ron Ramsey. This same group of activists engineered a town hall meeting that focused on Medicaid expansion and Insure Tennessee. Over two hundred folks packed Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City in the Town Hall meeting.

The meeting was filled with questions mostly aimed at Rusty Crowe. Why would the legislature vote against a plan that would not cost Tennessee taxpayers a single penny while providing 300,000 Tennesseans with health care? Why don’t working people in Tennessee have health care? Those in attendance hammered Rusty Crowe with those and other questions. Petitions were being signed after the meeting was over.

Tennesseans would prefer their elected representatives act like leaders and support the will of the majority and the best interest for Tennessee. And maybe stand up for what is right; instead of trying to protect their chances in a primary election challenge by a wing-nut. When it comes to the Tennessean legislature doing their job, they prefer to do nothing and blame it on Obama, unless it is one of the wealthy friends or lobbyists who demands special consideration. They will waste a whole week with legislation designed to pander to folks like the NRA.

Bernie Sanders enters Presidential Race.

Friday, May 29th, 2015

BURLINGTON, Vermont. — Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pulled out all the stops Tuesday at his presidential campaign launch in Burlington, as he outlined his role in “a political revolution to transform the country — economically, politically, economically and environmentally.”

An overflow crowd of over 5,000 supporters turned out to hear Bernie Sanders officially kick off his Presidential Campaign on the shores of lake Champaign. Ben and Jerry introduced Bernie Sanders and served their famous ice cream to the crowd. Left leaning Democrats support Bernie’s attempts to challenge the powerful Democratic Favorite, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie’s full speak can be heard here.

Bernie Sanders is serving his second term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2012. His previous 16 years in the House of Representatives makes him the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

He was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Sanders Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago. After graduating in 1964, he moved to Vermont. In 1981, he was elected to the first of four terms as mayor of Burlington. Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York before his 1990 election as Vermont’s at-large member in Congress.

He served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. In 2014 he pushed and passed legislation reforming the VA health care system. Today, Sanders remains on the veterans committee. He is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. He also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has focused sharply on global warming and rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. He is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he has championed efforts to transform our energy system from fossil fuels to renewable power sources like solar and wind. He also sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he has fought for greater access to affordable health care and improved education programs from pre-K to college.

Freedom Tower Tours Begin Today

Friday, May 29th, 2015

11193440_10207001524225056_1573255773319261096_nNew York – Today, fourteen years after the tragedy of 9-11, the Observatory tours atop of the Freedom tower begin. Tickets are $32 for adults. The panoramic views of New York City are breath taking. Some views can be seen here.

The Ground Zero memorial is a must see but difficult to view without tearing up. Feelings of visitors are still raw with emotions. The Freedom Tower is beautiful and an appropriate response to the tragedy of 9-11. Word of warning, don’t visit hungry, some food vendors are charging $30 for a hotdog and coke. A camera is a must.

I visited Ground Zero on the one year anniversary of 9-11. Photos of those lost and memorials were still in tack. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen. I visited Ground Zero for a second time this month on May 2-8. The memorial and Freedom Tower are impressive but sad.

Everyone should visit this site when they visit New York, you will never forget it.

Memorial Day: Remember Those Who Gave All

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

ap_transfer_remains_ceremony_ll_120914_wmainTo many, Memorial Day is another long weekend. It’s also known as the official start of summer. However, the true meaning of Memorial Day goes far beyond barbecues and celebrations.

The holiday began after the Civil War, and was known as “Decoration Day.” It was originally founded to honor the soldiers who died in the Civil War, today, Memorial Day is a day to honor all of the Americans who have died in military service. At Arlington National Cemetery, it takes one thousand soldiers four hours to place flags on the graves of each of the falling soldiers.

Every Americans should take a moment from their day of celebration and leisure to reflect on the brave sacrifices of those who have given all for this great nation.

The $9.4 Million Bypass/Sky Bridge to Nowhere

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

6990_nERWIN — The Erwin bypass/bridge is complete at an estimated cost of $9.4 million.

The railroad overpass project has been ongoing for two decades and was completed this week. The project connects Tenn. Highway 107 to Main Avenue through the construction of a one-half mile “bridge” that will pass over the CSX railroad tracks that cross Second Street. Years of random complaints about traffic delays due to trains crossings on Second Street are the justification for the $9.4 million.

The overpass allows motorists to bypass the potential train delays and downtown Erwin to get from Main Avenue to Second Street, and vice versa. It does not seem to matter that you can avoid the traffic jams by driving south and/or north in minutes to bypass the train related delays.

Drive the bypass and you will enjoy a breath taking view of the Town of Erwin and the mountains. One obvious observation was startling, the bypass takes you away from downtown, a location where millions have been spent to attract folks downtown.

Of course, local officials were excited about the project being completed. These are the same officials who spent millions of taxpayer dollars on remodeling downtown Erwin in hopes of attracting people to downtown. You can toss fiscal responsibility out the window when it comes to the inconvenience of folks waiting a few minutes for a train to pass. Is the expenditure of $9.4 million justification for the demand for self-satisfaction and self-indulgence? Seems this money would have been more wisely spent for a worthwhile cause like providing the 280,000 Tennesseans with health insurance or providing needy Tennesseans with SNAP food assistance – but no, according to Republicans… that would be wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.