Comments on defeat of Insure TN

Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee: “We are deeply disappointed that the Senate Health Committee rejected a chance to reform a health care system that virtually everyone agrees is broken. Governor Haslam presented legislators with a conservative, market-based health insurance plan that Tennessee’s health community agreed would improve health outcomes for working Tennesseans, reign in runaway costs and demonstrate that Tennessee could do health reform better than Washington.

“Their failure to advance Insure Tennessee will have consequences that are bad for our state. Tennessee has severe health care problems – we are ranked 45 of 50 states in health of citizens, and our rural health care centers are in financial crisis that threatens the economic stability of communities and the people who live there. Without a reform measure such as Insure Tennessee, those problems will only grow worse.

“For the past two days, legislators heard abundant and irrefutable testimony about the broken system and the burden it is for their constituents. Now that the General Assembly has rejected Insure Tennessee, we are eager to learn their plan to tackle this enormous problem.

“The Coalition is proud of Governor Haslam for doing what he was elected to do – provide leadership and solve problems confronting our state. We are also proud of House and Senate leadership and particularly House Leader Gerald McCormick and Senator Doug Overbey for valuing policy of politics.”

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville (one of the 4 committee yes votes): “Lawmakers have spent two years trying to find a solution to expand access to health care in our state, but it took only two days for the legislature to vote it down,” state Sen. Jeff Yarbro said. “It’s disheartening that seven Senators can make this decision for 6.5 million Tennesseans.”

“This conversation isn’t over,” Sen. Yarbro said. “Democrats will continue to make the case for expanding access to affordable health insurance in Tennessee. We will continue to work with the governor and with common-sense members of both parties to move past politics and do what’s right for Tennesseans.”

Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield
(one of the 7 no vote — via AP): “This was a very agonizing decision for everyone on that committee.”

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh: “When 280,000 Tennesseans are just hours away from getting insurance, Republicans get cold feet and walk away. This is an insult to Governor Haslam, a betrayal of our constituents and proves that Republicans are totally incapable of governing. In my 21 years of service, I cannot recall being more disappointed than I am today.

I hope no Republican has the audacity to file for per diem, because they wasted three days looking for an excuse to vote against Insure Tennessee. For my part, I will return all mine later this week. Going forward I hope the Governor calls us back into special session again and again until we get this right. This isn’t over.

Beacon Center of Tennessee: The Beacon Center applauds legislators for rejecting a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. Instead of supporting this extension of Obamacare in our state, lawmakers stood with the Beacon Center and fought for what was right, choosing taxpayers over special interest groups.

While the Beacon Center disagreed with Governor Haslam’s plan, we do want to thank him for bringing an important issue to light and trying to come up with a unique Tennessee solution to this issue. We also believe those who supported “Insure Tennessee” had the best of intentions, and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to find a responsible, cost-effective, free market solution that will truly benefit low-income Tennesseans.

“While stopping the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare was a necessary first step, it is still our responsibility as Tennesseans to find affordable healthcare solutions for our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen.
To that end, Beacon is calling for passage of right-to-try legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving medicine. Beacon will also work with state leaders to expand access to charity care, reduce the costs imposed by health insurance mandates, and allow Tennesseans to purchase health insurance across state lines.

“There are many things we can do to make healthcare and health insurance more affordable and accessible for all Tennesseans,” said Lindsay Boyd, Beacon Director of Policy. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work helping those most in need.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: “Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of our cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey: “Governor Haslam’s hard work and passion on Insure Tennessee has been made clear this week. While many questions have been answered during this special session, several questions remain unanswered. Ultimately, the absence of a clear, written agreement between the federal government and the State of Tennessee made passage impossible. Tennessee has always been a well-run, fiscally-responsible state. We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration.”

Tennessee Justice Center: “Today, the Senate Health Committee voted against Insure Tennessee. Sadly the vote never made it to the floor for the general assembly to consider.

It is extremely disappointing that seven members blocked Governor Haslam’s plan from being considered by the full legislature. A handful of votes leaves more than 280,000 Tennesseans without access to health care. While there were many reasons to pass this sensible legislation – the tremendous income it would have meant for the state, the stability it would have given our hospitals – the Tennessee Justice Center is most concerned about the people left with no options for care. Because we serve working Tennessee families we know what a tragic loss this means for them.”

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini: “Clearly Governor Haslam was wrong when he told President Obama to trust Republicans to care for “the least of these” said Mancini. “the failure of Lt. Governor Ramsey and Speaker Harwell to exhibit leadership in the face of partisan politics means over a quarter of a million hard working Tennesseans will continue to go without critical health care.”

Tennessee Medical Association (Dr. Douglas Springer, president): We are disappointed at today’s outcome of the debate regarding Insure Tennessee in the General Assembly. TMA supported Governor Haslam’s plan because it offered a viable alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion and had potential to help improve our public health and contain costs.

We have now missed an opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who need access to quality, affordable medical care. Tennessee’s doctors will continue taking care of our patients, and do our part to help find solutions to improve access, increase quality and reduce the cost of healthcare in Tennessee.

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville (a yes vote in the Senate committee, via Tennessean): “I think the final vote dealt with different things. I think different people voted ‘no’ for different reasons… Some were purely ideological where they don’t like the idea of another big government program. I think some of the no votes (came from those) who feel a sincere concern and responsibility, as stewards of the state’s finances, that we would get into something we couldn’t afford.”

“I’m a physician, I’m a medical doctor. The very last lady who testified is also down in the trenches. I think it’s like talking to the infantrymen at war versus the generals in Congress… For people down there fighting the war, it’s more personal, it’s much more emotional, than people who are looking at it from 10,0000 feet.”

Senate Health Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City (a committee no vote, also via Tennessean, link above): “I don’t think it’s wasted. I think we’re much farther along in understanding that whole process than we were. As chairman of health, I would hope that we could find some way to fill those gaps for the people who fall between the cracks because I think that’s the beginning and the crux of our problems –- everything from diabetes to cancer.”

Andrew Ogles, head of Americans for Prosperity in Tennessee, via Chattanooga TFP): “We couldn’t have done this without our grassroots activists showing up to hold their legislators accountable.. Thank you for listening to your constituents and voting to stop Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.”

Tennessee Hospital Association
, Craig Beckder, president: “It offered a practical, commonsense solution that worked for our state… Hospitals, along with community and business partners, have fought tirelessly in recent months to urge support for Insure Tennessee by state lawmakers and I am proud of our efforts.”

AARP, Tara Shaver, interim communications director (via TFP, link above): “Governor Haslam presented us with a unique opportunity to take care of our own… We regret that some members of his own party were not willing to put politics aside and do what was fair and just for the people of Tennessee.”

Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City (a key no vote, via Tennessean): “I’m proud that (Haslam) tried to give us a plan… He gave me what I asked for. Somehow, though, there’s a disconnect in that federal process.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis (via CA): “Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick … This vote is foolish because it leaves $1 billion in federal funds each year on the table that could have helped keep hospitals open, boosted our economy, and improved our citizens’ health.”

Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, (via Times-Free Press): “I do feel like this was not the long-term solution, and the more I studied it the more questions I had… Back in the district they call it a pig in a poke, and there were still some aspects to that.”

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville (sponsor, via Nashville Post): “Sometimes there are philosophical differences, sometimes people have a different understanding of the facts.

“I do think the testimony that occurred was very clear that the current system is broken and the solution put forward by Governor Haslam was the right solutions at the right time in the right place, and why it didn’t pass I can’t tell you. I wish it had. I won’t speculate on getting a different outcome, but I do believe the governor and his administration did what the legislation asked him to do last year, which was to work on a program under the Affordable Care Act that was not Medicaid expansion, but something different, and bring it back to the General Assembly.”

Update/Note: The Nashville Post has posted expanded comments from Ramsey and from most members of the Senate Commmittee, HERE.