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DAY TWENTY-TWO: TennCare Enrollees Unfaltering Going Into Week Four.

Overview of the events in the Tennessee Governor’s office sit-in. 

Activists begin the peaceful non-violent demonstration.(NASHVILLE, July 11, 2005) On June 20, 2005 around 10:00 am, twenty activists, including TennCare enrollees, peacefully visited Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s Nashville office demanding the governor stop sending TennCare termination letters and agree to resume talks on TennCare reforms. TennCare is the state of Tennessee’s Medicaid system which is being scrapped by Bredesen and over a quarter million citizens are losing their healthcare.


Following is a day-by-day summary of events.


Demonstrators presented the governor with their demands and vowed to “stay as long as necessary.” The governor refused to meet openly so seven activists, threatened with arrest, stayed in the office foyer overnight. A candlelight vigil was organized outside the locked building to show support.


At 10:00 am a Clergy press conference in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court, a 5:00 pm rally in front of the TennCare office building and a second candlelight vigil are organized to show support for the protest and support the demands.


Bredesen refuses to meet publicly. Citizens are skeptical of the governor’s verbal pledge not to cut vent users services, the activists ask for Bredesen’s pledge in writing. A dozen people spend the night in Bredesen’s office.


Protest grows. Bredesen, out of Tennessee, praises himself for Medicaid reform but does not explain why he has failed to apply his reform principles to TennCare. Calls the demonstration “a circus.”


Protestors refuse to leave, plan to stay over the weekend locked in the public building. Renew the demands.


State police do not allow food, water or medicine for people inside the building. Nightly candlelight vigils grow to 30 to 40 people.


In a public relations stunt, Bredesen buys the activists hamburgers


The National Southern Christian Leadership Conference publicly backs the demonstration, endorses a ten-point plan to save lives. Many news organizations run stories about the “hamburger summit.”


Medical professionals give support to the protest and hold a press conference. Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association also backs the sit-in.

DAY 10

Bredesen again rejects a meeting. The governor will only consider a closed-door session, while demanding the state legislature be more transparent. Testimony in the Grier case begins, citizens find out that Bredesen’s healthcare plan fails at saving money.

DAY 11

National poll shows that 74% of Americans view Medicaid as “very important.” More testimony in the Grier case shows that the governor personally approved the changes that he is now going to court to change.

DAY 12

Distracted by a press conference, activists are thrown out of the governor’s foyer and into the hall. The whole office becomes off-limits. The protestors take up the demonstration in the hall and vow to continue the sit-in from the door to Bredesen’s office.

DAY 13

Citizens feel betrayed by Governor Bredesen. Evidence in the Grier case shows that the governor not only did not attempt to fix TennCare, but his Medicaid proposal is a costly, untested and likely to fail.

DAY 14

The Tennessean runs an editorial praising the demonstrators and their form of protest. The piece likens Governor Phil Bredesen to King George III.

DAY 15

Independence Day. Activists locked in for the long holiday weekend renew their demands and celebrate the American holiday in a truly patriotic way. Governor Bredesen acknowledges the national holiday privately. Growing assistance for the demonstration finds 50 to 60 attending the candlelight vigil.

DAY 16

People with HIV and AIDS join the protest. Testimony in Grier case continues showing the Bredesen’s plan endorses “less adequate” care.

DAY 17

Grier testimony that Bredesen’s plan does not save money. The Tennessee Department of Human Services is sending out termination letters at an average of 2,000 a day.

DAY 18

Evidence in the Grier case shows that the governors planned medications limit will force citizens into costly nursing homes. Five thousand citizens have already appealed the termination decision of DHS.

DAY 19

Bredesen’s proposal of a five scrip limit is discrimination against people with disabilities. People forced into costly institutions receive free unlimited supplies of drugs, while those who attempt to work and remain in the community are penalized. 

DAY 20

Activists start another weekend trapped in the state building. Bob Cooper’s, the governor’s lawyer, rejects demands of activists.

DAY 21

Tennessean runs stories about TennCare enrollees losing their healthcare and already facing death. Group prepares for another week of the sit-in, expects more growth this week.


Stronger than ever, the sit-in starts the fourth week. More testimony expected in the Grier case.

- Tim Wheat


MCIL Journal Index 2005

Follow the TennCare Sit-in

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