Archive for the ‘Insure Tennessee’ Category

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.”


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.

As Easter approaches… Can Insure Tennessee rise from the legislative grave?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Senate Health Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, tried to explain why he first said he would vote yes, days later voted no on Insure Tennessee earlier in the session then more recently voted yes:

In an article on Humphrey on the Hill, Crowe said amendments made to the pilot program were key in his decision to change his vote. The amendments include a “lockout provision” for enrollees who fail to pay premiums. An additional provision asks Governor Haslam to wait to put the plan into effect after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health insurance exchanges is announced.

Some speculation is that Mr. Crowe is merely a puppet of Ron Ramsey, doing his bidding, in initially killing Insure Tennessee. The backwoods boys have repeatedly shown a deep hatred of ObamaCare and vote consistently against the welfare of Tennesseans.

This week, the legislation will go to Senate Finance and on to similar committees in the House. Many see Crowe’s explanation as unbelievable.

Recently a half page article appeared in several area newspapers calling Rusty Crowe and Ron Ramsey out on their failure to move Insure Tennessee forward. Days after the ads are carried in papers, it is reported calls flooded several offices as the ad requested the public to do. Rusty Crowe then votes “yes”, of course, the following ad had nothing to do with his change of heart… SURE

The ad is as follows:





In crafting the Affordable Care Act, Congress and hospital associations created a provision to deal with uncompensated care. Medicaid expansion to 138% of poverty would cover the low-income uninsured whose basic needs emergency rooms are required to meet. In exchange, hospitals would forgo federal reimbursement for uninsured care. The government would pay 100% Medicaid expansion cost for three years and 90% thereafter. In 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the ACA as constitutional, but allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion provision. However, in 2014, hospitals would lose federal reimbursement regardless of their state legislature’s choice. Our legisla-ture has rejected Medicaid expansion, leaving our hospitals and 280,000 low income workers stranded, the lifeline dangling just out of reach. Our hospitals lost hundreds of millions of dollars last year and stand to lose billions. Tennessee’s economy lost as well. Some rural hospitals have already closed, and all are at varying degrees of risk. Partici-pating states will receive our lost billions.

In 2013, Governor Bill Haslam, his staff, and hospital professionals began crafting Insure Tennessee, an alternative to Medicaid expansion which would 1) satisfy the federal requirements, 2) cover 280,000 uninsured low-income workers, 3) meet our hospitals’ financial needs, and 4) address issues raised by political conservatives. Polling revealed popular, bipartisan approval at 62%. Insure Tennessee gained official federal approval in 2014. Low-income workers could have personal and less costly routine care. Hospi-tals would be relieved of a debilitating financial burden—three goals met with a professionalism to make us proud.


Insure Tennessee failed in an ad hoc committee, chaired by Sen. Rusty Crowe, after insultingly brief discussion. A mere seven senators, all chosen by Sen. Ramsey for that purpose, killed it. Public comment and full assembly vote were denied. All Tennesseans, Republican and Democrat, lost.


East Tennessee counties sent Ron Ramsey and Rusty Crowe to Nashville to represent our interests. It’s the widely popular Governor, a fellow Republican, whom these two have chosen to insult and hinder. It is the hospitals in their own districts they have chosen to cripple. Mr. Ramsey manipulated this travesty. He reconfigured the standing Health and Welfare Committee temporarily for his purposes. It is widely understood that he removed not only the bill’s sponsor, but three members who are medical profes-sionals, replacing them with six whose “NO” votes were assured. Mr. Ramsey left Mr. Crowe as chairman and a reliable “NO” vote, despite the fact that Mr. Crowe had as-sured hospital leadership in his district of his support. Mr. Crowe and Mr. Ramsey need to hear from us.


1. The Governor is owed an apology for the rude and cavalier treatment of his accomplishment.

2. You betrayed your district’s medical community, its premier economic mover, and 280,000 working people.

3. Your loyalty belongs to us, not to Mr. Ramsey and out-of-state big money handlers.

4. Stand on your own two legs, re-open hearings with the original Health and Welfare Committee members, and join the Governor in doing the most economically wise and morally decent thing.


1. You are not Governor. We soundly rejected you, remember?

2. Your reputation as a bully follows you. No amount of language, no matter how carefully crafted, disguises what you’ve done. Actions always speak the loudest.

3. You could consider that you’re being used by those powerful out-of-state conglomerates and super PACs who certainly seem to guide your every move. If you can’t detect the boot on your own neck, the rest of us can. It doesn’t build a legacy.

4. If your justification for accepting support from the out-of-state conglomerates and super PACs is that you and they agree ideologically or in principle, does that include the crippling of our state’s hospitals?

5. Neither Democrats, President Barack Obama, Governor Haslam, the out-of-state conglomerates and super PACs, nor the seven “NO”-voters (whether true believers or simply cowards) are responsible for the failure of Insure Tennessee. You are.

6. When hospitals in rural counties fail, as they will, it will have been by your doing. When our local hospitals have to cut staff and services, it will have been by your doing.

When overworked doctors and support staff make mistakes, you’ll have created the conditions for those mistakes.

7. The legislators we elect deserve the right to show us their own brand of leadership, and sense of what’s right, without fear of retaliation.


Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) has been instrumental in bringing Insure Tennessee back from the Ramsey dug grave. Yarbro is a prime sponsor of SJR 93, along with Republican Senators Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville). Ramsey insists the bill (Insure Tennessee) will not survive. As Easter approaches, could Insure Tennessee rise from the legislative grave?

Insure Tennessee Fails: Rusty Crowe Flip Flops.

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Nashville – Thursday, Tennessee plunged to a new GOP driven low point in our state’s history as healthcare was denied to thousands of Tennesseans.

With a single vote in the Tennessee Senate, seven Republican senators voted to deny healthcare for over a quarter of a million hard working Tennesseans.

The seven Republicans are: Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Mike Bell of Riceville, Dr. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Kerry Roberts of Springfield.

Rusty Crowe of Johnson City said he would vote for the legislation, but he voted against it. He said he changed his mind.

The end of Insure Tennessee (Haslam’s version of Obamacare) is a direct result in the failure of leadership by Republican leaders Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell. It was their failure to lead, and specifically their failure to stand up to the TNGOP right wing extremists that lead to the defeat of Insure Tennessee. It was also their failure that lead to 7 Republican senators making the wrong decision that will hurt the lives of 250,000 Tennesseans for years to come.

The seven Republican senators showed that they have no compassion or concern for the 800 Tennesseans who have already died waiting for healthcare expansion.

Those same seven Republican senator embarrassed Governor Haslam and proved him wrong when he told President Obama that Republicans could be trusted to care for “the least of these”.

Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown they are unwilling to put people first, over special interest, and they are not capable of running our state.

Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro, stood up for Tennesseans by voting for Insure Tennessee and he pointed out that Republicans who deny hardworking Tennesseans the healthcare they need are themselves on government funded healthcare.

Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of this vote. This is a sadly a low point in our state’s history.