“I want to be clear on one point: I am committed to fixing TennCare, not dismantling it. This is a worthwhile initiative that needs to be preserved if possible; not taken apart. The fact is, TennCare is a lifeline for 1.3 million Tennesseans who are battling chronic illness - coping with serious disabilities - and struggling to make ends
Gov. Phil Bredesen, Tennessee Press Association. February 12, 2004
(NASHVILLE, July 3, 2005) Activists have occupied Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s office day and night since June 20; today is the fourteenth day of the sit-in. A coalition of TennCare supporters is demanding that the governor stop the massive disqualification of citizens in need of healthcare, and openly discuss TennCare. The governor has refused to meet openly with the demonstrators; he has offered only closed-door meetings.
“We are in this 100 percent, we are staying,” said TennCare enrollee Don DeVaul today by telephone. “We will be here over the holiday and will take back the governor’s office on Tuesday.”
TennCare is the Tennessee Medicaid program that offers additional healthcare coverage beyond the federal minimal requirements. Governor Bredesen’s “plan” is to return to the federal minimum, terminating healthcare to over 300 thousand citizens costing an additional $100 million. Friday activists were pushed out of the office and into the adjacent hall where they continue the occupation over the long holiday weekend. Supporters gather outside the locked government building to show encouragement, holding a vigil every night and calling for public support tomorrow, Monday, July 4th, 7-10pm at the doors of the State Capitol.
Bredesen has ignored cost-saving proposals to embark on his road of “reform.” Former Pharmacy Director Leo Sullivan recommended a Retro-review program to monitor all TennCare prescriptions. This addition to the TennCare pharmacy program could save the state up to $500 million a year, but Bredesen would not accept the cost-savings; his administration only disputed the figures.
TennCare enrollees that have occupied the governor’s office have provided him with their own suggestions that could save $665 million, but the governor refuses to address real options to save TennCare. The governor has instead made speeches outside of Tennessee suggesting that he is a Medicaid reformer. Some have suggested that Bredesen is playing to national political ambitions.
“The guy [Bredesen] doesn’t care about anything but his own image,” said DeVaul, “we have no secrete agenda, but the Bredesen administration is all behind closed-doors.”
Ironically, Bredesen did not give his own proposals the same fiscal analysis of the proposals he disputes. The governor’s Medicaid plan will still cost taxpayers $100 million dollars while disqualifying 323,000 people. That is only fifteen percent savings for providing 23% less service.
Bredesen stated his settlements TennCare lawsuits were milestones that would save $300 million a year, but has taken TennCare back to court. The administration is struggling to take physicians out of treatment process. The governor suggests that bureaucrats can decide on the least costly, adequate treatment for people, he contends that doctors spend like a kid in a candy store.
“He has to recognize that lives will be lost,” said DeVaul.
- Tim Wheat