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DAY THIRTY-THREE: Six lies of Governor Bredesen, Part One.

Examination of the governorís spin campaign about the TennCare changes. 

By Tim Wheat

Sit-in activists discuss tactics.(BOULDER, COLORADO) Governor Phil Bredesen has not been honest with Tennessee citizens; he promised to fix TennCare and is now dismantling it, and he cut services to ventilator users one month after he directly told vent users he would not cut their services. Similarly the governor has used misinformation to push his Medicaid proposal on the people of Tennessee. 

Although Bredesen has generally avoided public scrutiny, here are three of six statements, twisted beyond truth, which the governor and his administration have used to ďspinĒ the TennCare changes:

One: The governor said he has attempted to keep enrollment, but enrollee advocates have blocked benefit cuts in court, giving Bredesen ďno choiceĒ but to disqualify hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans.
This is an important bit of spin for the governor because it intends to paint someone else as the bad guy. In reality, the massive cuts in enrollment are the governorís solution alone. A Kaiser Family Foundation report found that Tennessee was the only US state to use massive disenrollment as a cost containment, and because people will still need healthcare, the governorís proposal will simply shift the healthcare burden to local tax sources.

The governor blames enrollee advocates for blocking benefit cuts, but this is an excuse for his failure or inability to govern. The TennCare enrolleeís advocates are not running the state government; if they were they would block his current proposal. Governor Bredesen is ignoring cost-saving proposals to save TennCare as he promised and blaming those that oppose him. 

Cutting benefits is not a solution to mismanagement. The governor has consistently ignored and failed to implement any of the program efficiency changes available to make the system more cost-effective. In fact, the Medicaid system before TennCare was in deeper financial trouble than it is today. TennCare brings in billions of federal matching funds that Bredesen will simply throw away. Without the additional capitol, the state portion is smaller, but there is less money overall to improve efficiency and the governor is cutting just those programs that can save the state money like home and community-based services as an alternative to expensive institutions.
Two: TennCare is weighed down by the consent decrees and cannot continue current coverage.
The reason for the consent decrees in the first place is because the state has been accused of illegal actions that have harmed citizens in the past. The state has not admitted guilt, but Tennessee officials have consented to act in a way that will protect people in the future. 

Evidence in the Grier case showed that Governor Bredesen himself had personally approved the settlement. The governorís clamor that public-interest lawyers had blocked state action is another example of him passing the buck. Furthermore, his taking the TennCare enrollees back to court to change the terms of the settlement shows that the governor can and will act on issues that hinder his plan. Bredesenís claim that he has been blocked is just not true.
Three: TennCare does not have major Managed Care Companies and is undercapitalized. 
TennCare was conceived as a progressive healthcare system. Its advantage is that it makes use of the high match provided by the federal government. Tennessee receives over two dollars for each dollar it puts into the system. By providing more services and benefits, TennCare gets more bang-for-the buck. More money in the state means more jobs, higher income and more state tax money. 

Bredesenís solution to this is to compress the whole Medicaid system with no guarantee that his proposal will not also be undercapitalized. It is known for certain that the governorís plan will result in a loss of over $1.4 billion to Tennessee in 2005-2006, with a loss to the state economy estimated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at over $2 billion. Bredesenís proposal will reverberate in the state economy to almost 7,000 jobs lost in 2005 and about 20,000 jobs lost by 2008 due to the reduction in federal matching funds.

County and local tax sources will be forced to pick up the healthcare dropped by the state, and new businesses will be reluctant to open shop where their insurance, often provided by major Managed Care Companies has and expanded burden. Governor Bredesenís pledge to fix TennCare was a vow to the business community as well as citizens and the healthcare community.

Six lies of Governor Bredesen, Part Two.

- Tim Wheat

MCIL Journal Index 2005

Follow the TennCare Sit-in

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