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Mancini Praises State Democratic Legislators’ Renewal of Push for Medicaid Expansion

Press release from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 12, 2015:

After Republicans such as Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-has his choice of two health care plans) and Sen. Kerry Roberts (R- Springfield-defended his vote based on false information) tried to kill Insure Tennessee last week in a special legislative session and thereby deny 300,000 hardworking Tennesseans access to affordable health care, Democrats introduced two bills and two resolutions today that will keep Insure Tennessee alive:

“State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville)…has introduced two senate joint resolutions and one bill…The first resolution would allow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to pursue his Insure Tennessee proposal in the regular General Assembly session. The second aims to authorize full expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, according to a news release….Yarbro’s bill (SB 885) would repeal legislation passed last year that would require the governor to get the General Assembly’s approval before expanding the state’s Medicaid population under the Affordable Care Act….”Democratic lawmakers agree this issue is too important to let drop just because the governor’s own party let him down,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart (D-Nashvillle) said…”We are committed to finding a way to bring affordable health care to Tennesseans.” State Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) also filed a bill Thursday to make part-time state employees eligible for the same health insurance plans available to state lawmakers.” (Read more...)

Please share this story far and wide (here’s the link: http://goo.gl/rQfSM8) and let folks know that:

TNDP: In ‘Overt Snub’ to Haslam, Ramsey Rigged Health Committee to Kill ‘Insure TN’

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; February 9, 2015:

Ongoing Power Struggle Between Ramsey and Gov. Haslam Threatens Tennesseans’ Lives

Nashville, Tenn. (February 9, 2015) – In an overt snub to Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey stacked the State Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee with “no” votes to kill Insure Tennessee, the Governor’s proposed health care plan.

Rather than working with his own party’s Governor on his top legislative priority and providing hardworking Tennesseans with access to quality, affordable health care, Ramsey rigged the Senate Health and Welfare Committee by removing three health care professionals and the bill’s sponsor and replacing them with hand-picking vocal opponents of Insure Tennessee [see attached graphic]. If he had allowed the duly appointed standing Health and Welfare Committee to remain intact and rule on the proposal, Insure Tennessee would have likely passed by at least a 6-3 vote. Ramsey’s crass power play ensured the death of Insure Tennessee.

The result of Ramsey’s rigged committee:

  • The lives of approximately 280,000 working Tennesseans are now in danger as they will continue to go without health care.
  • Billions of dollars of taxpayer money will be lost – money that hardworking Tennesseans have already paid in taxes will now flow to other states to pay for their health care.
  • As many as one-third of the state’s hospitals remain in danger of closing, resulting in thousands of lost jobs and endangering rural Tennesseans, who will have to drive several counties away in order to receive emergency care.
  • Businesses will avoid those regions of our state where there is no hospital.

Also to be noted is that six of the seven Republican senators who voted to kill Insure Tennessee accept and benefit from health care coverage provided to them by their employer – the state of Tennessee.

It is the height of hypocrisy to not only accept taxpayer-funded health coverage while denying it to others, but also to pretend that the legislative process was fair when it was rigged from the beginning.

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Senate Health & Welfare Comparison

TN Senate Dems: Following Insure TN Defeat, Charity Care Ramps Up

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; February 6, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Following the defeat of Insure Tennessee in the state Senate, a Remote Area Medical clinic plans to treat more than 1,000 people this weekend who can’t afford health insurance.

“The legislature killed Insure Tennessee without offering any alternatives for the uninsured,” state Sen. Jeff Yarbro said. “It’s shameful that thousands of Tennesseans, many of whom work full-time, have no choice but to rely on charity care. We owe it to them to put politics aside and find a real solution to the challenges they face.”

Based in Tennessee, the Remote Area Clinic was inspired by its founder’s personal experience treating patients in the world’s most inaccessible regions, where people are devastated by what would have been simple or minor illnesses in more advanced cultures. The clinic plans to treat patients in Tennessee at various locations over 11 weekends this year.

A clinic will be held in Knoxville Saturday and Sunday at the Jacob Building at 3301 E. Magnolia Ave.

Last year’s clinic in Knoxville was the subject of a segment on The Daily Show.

CORRECTION: Mancini: Death of Haslam’s Medicaid Expansion ‘Low Point’ in TN History

E-mail from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 6, 2015:

Yesterday we made a mistake and named Senator Dr. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) as one of the votes against Insure Tennessee. We’ve heard from many of you to say that Senator Hensley was not on the Health Committee this week and, in fact, supports Insure Tennessee. Our sincere apologies to Senator Hensley.

The seventh Republican Senator who voted against Insure Tennessee was Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).

But our mistake was not the only one made this week. Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga stated this whopper during the committee hearing:

“Sen. Yarbro, I’ve heard you twice kind of take a slap at some of us, and I’m getting a little resentful of it. I have a very nice health care [plan] provided to me through my private employer.”

Not so. 6 of the 7 Senators who voted to kill Insure Tennessee have healthcare provided for them by the state. Sen. Gardenhire is one of them, but insisted he doesn’t use it. So, not only does Sen. Gardenhire have insurance, but while he is denying even one healthcare option for hardworking Tenneseans, he has his choice of two! Shameful.

While Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown that they are unwilling to help hardworking Tennesseans but make sure that they get theirs, Democratic legislators across the state have their priorities straight:

None of us wants to have it on our conscience that we denied our fellow Tennesseans affordable healthcare because of some philosophical difference.” — Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) (WREG)

I think we need to remove the partisanship issues from this. This is about people’s lives. At the end of the day, if we don’t have access to health care, some family members may die.” — Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) (WREG)

The Republicans in the legislature spit in the eye of their own governor. This is the worst public policy disaster that I can remember in a decade.” — said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) (WSMV)

I’m burdened by the thought of over 300,000 people who will continue to lack access to health insurance. It hurts my soul to think of the many Tennesseans who had such hope, who work as hard as they can everyday and still can’t afford healthcare, and who will continue to lack access to preventive care and management of chronic disease. Healthcare is not a privilege; access to it should not be determined by the size of your bank account or quality of job. However, I still remain hopeful that we will reevaluate this decision to ignore the least among us. As a Christian, as an elected official, and as a dweller of this Earth, I can do no less.” — Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)

It’s a sad day in Tennessee that we have a party that has majority rule, but can’t pass legislation for the hard-working people of Tennessee that need it.” — Rep. Johnny Shaw, (D-Bolivar) (Jackson Sun)

And Democrats were joined by many allies who agreed:

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.“–Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

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.” –Tara Shaver, interim communications director, AARP (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

An “extremely disappointed” Bobby Arnold, president of West Tennessee Healthcare, said, “We appreciate the efforts of everyone who supported Insure Tennessee and believe it would have been good for West Tennessee Healthcare and the state. West Tennessee Healthcare will continue to serve the people of rural West Tennessee.” (Jackson Sun)

It’s been quite a week. Enjoy your weekend…and let’s keep fighting for all Tennesseans!

Mary Mancini
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party

E-mail from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 5, 2015:

Yesterday was a truly a low point in our state’s history.

With one vote in a senate committee, seven Republican senators made a decision to shut the door to critical healthcare for over a quarter of a million hard working Tennesseans.

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

But those seven Republican senators didn’t act in a vacuum. The end of Insure Tennessee 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, their failure to have the courage to stand up to right wing extremists, and their failure to serve 6.5 million Tennesseans that lead to 7 Republican senators making the terrible decision that will devastate the lives of 250,000 Tennesseans for years to come.

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

Those seven Republican senators showed that they have absolutely no fiscal sense by rejecting the one billion dollars in federal funds that Tennessee would have already received with healthcare expansion.

Those seven Republican senator showed that Governor Haslam was wrong when he told our President 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 and that they are incapable of running our state.

Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro, who stood up for Tennesseans by voting for Insure Tennessee in the committee, pointed out the simple fact that Republicans who deny hardworking Tennesseans the healthcare they need are themselves on government funded healthcare for themselves. House Leader Craig Fitzhugh said, “It does matter who governs.” Congressman Steve Cohen said the vote was “Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick,” and Congressman Jim Cooper said, “Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of a cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

As Democrats, we will keep fighting for all Tennesseans, even when tea party extremists celebrate Insure Tennessee’s defeat.

Thank you,

Mary Mancini
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party

Fitzhugh Accuses GOP of Getting ‘Cold Feet’ on Insure Tennessee

Press release from Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley; February 4, 2015:

Nashville, TN: House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh issued the following statement after the failure of Insure Tennessee:

“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 Praises General Assembly for Rejecting Medicaid Expansion

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee; February 4, 2015:

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.”

Cohen, Cooper Critical of General Assembly’s Rejection of Insure TN

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 4, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding the Tennessee State Senate Health & Welfare Committee, by a vote of 4 to 7, effectively killing Governor Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee:

“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.”

“This vote is sad because it shows inhumanity and disdain for Tennessee’s sick and our poorest citizens in need of health care.”

“And it is sick because some of those Tennesseans will die as a result of this decision. Those who voted ‘no’ today made a foolish, sad, sick and outright wrong decision.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued the following statement:

“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.”

Yarbro: Democrats Will Continue to Make Case for Medicaid Expansion

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; February 4, 2015:

“This conversation is not over. Democrats will continue to make the case.”

NASHVILLE –State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, the Democratic member of the Senate Health Committee, released the following statement on today’s vote ending the prospect of passage for Insure Tennessee during the extraordinary session:

“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.”

AFP-TN Praises State Senators For Killing Medicaid Expansion Bill

Press release from Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee; February 4, 2015:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After numerous hearings over the past couple of weeks the Senate Health Committee voted against the plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare 7:4. A sea of red shirts in committees and the halls of legislative plaza turned the tide against the Insure Tennessee Medicaid expansion proposal.

Over 200 activists with Americans for Prosperity converged on the Capitol for the committee hearings yesterday. They came from all areas of the state: Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Tri-Cities; many volunteers took off work and drove four or more hours to attend.

After the vote AFP-TN state director Andrew Ogles stated:  “We couldn’t have done this without our grassroots activists showing up to hold their legislators accountable. This is truly a victory for the Tennessee taxpayers.”

“We commend the Senators voting to defeat this measure and other legislators who led the fight. Thank you for listening to your constituents and voting to stop Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.”

The special session Senate Health Committee members casting the votes were as follows:

Senators voting against the measure – Mike Bell (R), Janice Bowling (R), Todd Gardenhire (R), Frank Nicely (R), Brian Kelsey (R), Kerry Roberts (R), and Rusty Crowe (R)

Voting for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare: Dr. Richard Briggs (R), Becky Massey (R), Ed Jackson (R), and Jeff Yarbro (D).

Fitzhugh Calls on General Assembly to Pass Insure TN

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; February 4, 2015:

Fitzhugh Statement on Billion Dollars Lost
Time for General Assembly to pass Insure Tennessee

Nashville, TN: House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement marking the 400th day without a solution for those in the Medicaid gap, as well as the $1 billon mark for funds lost:

“Today is a sad anniversary for Tennessee as we mark the 400th day with no solution for those in the Medicaid gap. As of this morning, our tax payers have lost $1 billion—that’s billion with a ‘B’—to other states, while 800 totally preventable deaths have occurred because working people could not afford coverage. When a solution is so close, delaying passage any further is a moral crisis of the first degree. There are 280,000 working people waiting for the General Assembly to make the right decision. It’s time to act now and pass Insure Tennessee.”