DAY THIRTY-TWO: Turning Up The Heat.
Activists renew demands to Governor Bredesen, apply more pressure statewide.
(NASHVILLE, July 21, 2005) Filling the hallway outside Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s office, protestors demanded the governor respond to their renewed written demands and promised to intensify the pressure on the governor and legislators across the state to stop the TennCare disenrollment and openly address healthcare.
“We will be here as long as it takes,” said Randy Alexander of ADAPT who stormed the governor’s office over a month ago. “We will start relying on other groups and other forms of pressure with citizens joining us and showing unity across the state.”
At around 10:00 am today about 20 activists packed the hallway to find Bredesen’s office closed down to all business. State police relayed the demonstrator’s demands to the governor but stated that the he would not come out of his office. Protestors expect a response from Governor Bredesen by noon on Friday (June 22).
“We are not going to sit here quietly any longer,” said Alexander. “We are going to continue this aspect of the demonstration, but also help focus the voices rising up from around the state.”
Following delivering demands to the governor, the group had a press conference that highlighted some of the anger toward Bredesen. Citizens from neighboring Arkansas told of how that state has saved money by providing alternatives to nursing homes. Two citizens tell how they now live in the community rather than expensive institutions.
“Money Follows the Person” legislation would cost the state nothing. It allows people destined for costly nursing homes to instead use that money to receive services in the community. Diverting one person will save the state about $23,000.00, and Tennessee has already identified over 6,000 people that want out of institutions.
Bredesen had promised to fix TennCare, but came up with his own healthcare plan that disqualifies nearly 300,000 citizens and cuts medications to over 700,000. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit research group, finds that Tennessee is alone in the concept of enrollment reduction as a cost saving technique.
"Tennessee’s eligibility reduction will be the largest reduction undertaken by a state in recent years,” said Samantha Artiga, a policy analyst with Kaiser, “and it could have significant implications for the health and well-being of over 200,000 people or 20 percent of the TennCare population."
Rather than explore cost-saving ideas like Money Follows the Person, the governor has instead reduced the entire program. The reduction will mean a loss of $1.2 billion in federal Medicaid matching funds and a loss of 14,500 jobs. The governor’s incentive is to cut the state budget, but people will still require healthcare and the costs will simply be passed on the local communities costing individual Tennesseans more.
- Tim Wheat