Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Irresponsible GOP Lets Working Tennesseans Fall Through the Cracks of Health Care

It does not make moral sense, or even economic sense if you have a heart of stone, to turn away millions of federal dollars coming into Tennessee to serve our people who have fallen through the health-care cracks.

Former Tennessee Senator Roy Herron, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, lays it out.

Expand Medicaid for Working Tennesseans

If the politicians and the prisoners, the lawmakers and the lawbreakers, have health care, what’s wrong with working women and working men having health care?
roy herron
That’s the question Chairman Roy Herron sought to answer in a column that ran in Sunday’s Knoxville News-Sentinel

Sunday, August 4, 2013
Working people need state to accept federal funds, expand Medicaid
Brain cancer attacked Virginia’s husband. At the end, when he couldn’t take any more, the 33-year-old took his own life. As did her son at 19.
For 31 years, she’s worked at the same Knoxville restaurant.
No benefits.
No health insurance.
In Nashville, near the Capitol, in a small, inexpensive restaurant, one extremely nice and polite waiter always hustles to serve us all. No matter when I go, he is there. I finally asked how.
Tim explained he works from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m., 13 hours a day, seven days a week. That comes to 91 hours a week.
On a good day, he makes $100. There aren’t enough good days.
No benefits.
No health insurance.
Then there’s Linda. Once or twice a week, she serves me breakfast at the family-owned restaurant in Nashville where she’s worked 19 years, 10 hours a day, six days a week, from open to close.
Ten years ago, within sight of her home, her son was killed in a car wreck. Five years ago, cancer killed her husband. And took her health insurance.
The cheapest health insurance Linda could find was $2,000 a month. Her paycheck barely covers her mortgage; tips sometimes cover everything else. There’s sure not $24,000 a year for health insurance.
Restaurant servers are only one group of working people needing health care security. Others include the self-employed, many construction workers, temporary staff, clerks, workers in small businesses and even employees of the world’s largest, most profitable retailer.
Which Tennesseans need expanded Medicaid for health insurance?
Not unemployed single mothers and their young children — they have TennCare health insurance.
Not retired senior citizens — they have Medicare health insurance.
Not convicted felons in prison or murderers on death row — we already pay for their health care.
Not the politicians — the governor and his family, the commissioners and their families, the legislators and their families, members of Congress and their families. All these politicians have access to government health insurance.
But what about working people? The Tennesseans without health insurance are working people.
So, if the politicians and the prisoners, the lawmakers and the lawbreakers, have government-provided health care, what’s wrong with working women and working men having health care?
Folks like the Nashville waiter and the Nashville and Knoxville waitresses.
Many states are accepting federal funds to provide health care for working citizens near the poverty line. Tennessee has not.
Turning down 100 percent federal funding for three years to expand Medicaid means our federal tax dollars will be sent as far as California and New York and as close as Kentucky and Arkansas. We will fund all the states choosing to enable health care for working citizens.
Some 330,000 Tennesseans in working families — including 80,000 children — could qualify for the federal government paying the full cost of their health care for three years. After the three years, we could opt out if we didn’t want to pay, at most, 10 percent.
Will Tennessee accept the federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to include working people?
Unless our Republican governor — like nine other Republican governors — and Republicans in the Legislature act, Tennesseans will pay taxes for other states to get health care, but our working women and men will do without.
No benefits.
No health insurance.
The public servers are depending on the public servants. The waitresses and the waiters and many other workers are waiting to see.
May they wait no more.

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