Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Tennessee, You Can't Discuss Health Care Reforms

It seems the first rule of the Tennessee Legislature on Health Care Reform is You Cant' Talk About Health Care Reform.

Senator and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, aka The Trickster, created a brand new temporary committee to make sure all debate, discussion, exploration, investigation and open communication on Health Care Reform died on the table before the Legislature could even consider talking about it.

"In short, Lt. Gov. Ramsey stacked the deck.  How he did it is now well known.  He created an ad hoc Health and Welfare Committee specifically for the special session that bears little resemblance to the actual Health and Welfare Committee that will meet this week and for the remainder of the legislative session.  Ramsey purposefully stacked this “extraordinary” Senate Health and Welfare Committee with six state senators who openly opposed Insure Tennessee but do not actually serve on the standing committee.  To make room for these “no” votes, Lt. Gov. Ramsey removed three healthcare professionals, as well as the bill’s Senate sponsor, from the standing committee.  Ultimately, all six of the temporary committee members voted “no” and killed the Governor’s proposal, effectively ending the special session."

The move was a parliamentary legal dodge, perhaps. The result was vividly clear: no discussion of the issue, no discussion of solutions, no open debate. 

Governor Bill 'Gee Whiz Kid' Haslam, who said he had a reform plan to consider, was quoted afterwards as saying "Gee whiz, that didn't work". (NOTE: I made that up, it's a joke, like the "vote" just held.)

6 of the 7 members on the New Committee all have state-run, subsidized health care. But talking about how the state could expand coverage for state residents - that's not allowed:

"Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, who clashed with a Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville Wednesday when Yarbro pointed out "that virtually every member of the Tennessee General Assembly receives some form of tax-subsidized health care."

"Retorted Gardenhire: "I have a very nice health care [plan] provided to me through my private employer."

"Following Wednesday's meeting, Gardenhire said in an interview he was on the state employee health plan. But he said he has never used it and relies instead on his private insurance.

"According to records provided at the request of the Times Free Press and other news organizations by the Department of Finance and Administration, other Republicans voting against Haslam's Insure Tennessee who are on the state health plan, which funds 80 percent of employee premiums, are: Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield and Health Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.

The issue first surfaced in a Times Free Press article on Monday that pointed out 116 of 132 senators and representatives had state-government subsidized coverage..."

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