Today, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced that his administration would not expand Medicare coverage in Tennessee (Press Release).
After months of hemming and hawing, the Gov. Decided it was just too hard to do it…but not for the reasons he mentioned.
Truth be told, Haslam is in a political box. That’s not to excuse his spinelessness…but to explain it.
The GOP majority of the House and Senate don’t want this. They don’t want to give any political weight to President Obama, much less the healthcare plan that is his crowning domestic policy achievement…especially when most of them ran against it.
Haslam understands that his office is weak in comparison to the Legislature. They can undo just about anything with a majority vote.
Instead of falling on his sword, and doing the right thing, he chose to cowtow to the crazies, who would rather win a political battle than save a life.
In the words of Rep. Mike Stewart, Haslam is a coward.
Hospital Closings Are On the Menu
Below is a map of hospitals across Tennessee that are either about to close, or already have due to the weight of uncompensated care from folks who are too poor to pay for coverage.
View Hospitals in a larger map
In all, 54 hosptials, most of them in rural areas, will close. 30 Counties in Tennessee will no longer have a hospital thanks to Haslam’s intransigence. The Populations of those counties add up to over 1.1m people.
Tennessee will lose over 21,000 jobs due to these closures and countless more due to the economic impact it has on these and other counties.
The Human Cost
The human cost is harder to calculate. With 30 counties, representing over a million people set to lose their local hospitals, travel time for health emergencies will be longer. For critical health needs, that means more people will either arrive at the hospital in worse shape…which ultimately costs more. Or they won’t make it to the hospital alive.
The human cost is families, most of them in rural areas, will lose their loved ones too soon because they don’t have facilities to care for them nearby, or the drive is too far for them to survive.
What Haslam doesn’t seem to acknowledge is through his actions he has set into motion a scenario where real people will be hurt in a real and tangible way…either through the loss of a loved one, or the loss of their life.
The Unfortunate Reality
The unfortunate reality is that Tennessee is going to have to come up with money to cover the 98,000 people in the state that currently qualify for TennCare, but haven’t enrolled no matter what. Coverage for many of those people, and the 250,000+ more that are on the cusp, would have been covered by accepting the Medicaid expansion.
Instead of helping over 350,000 people gain access to affordable healthcare, Gov. Haslam has cut 1,000,000 more people out of the healthcare equation. This Faustian Bargain may have scored him some political points with GOP Legislators, but he’s paying for it with the lives of real Tennesseans.
I hope he can live with that. Politics isn’t worth someone’s life. I guess Bill Haslam just doesn’t see it that way.
So much for being a moderate.