Dems Lash Out at Haslam; Party Chairman Accuses Governor of Condemning Tennesseans to Die



Rep. Mike Stewart calls Haslam political coward.
  • Rep. Mike Stewart calls Haslam political coward.
Democrats lambasted Gov. Bill Haslam as a political coward today for saying no to ObamaCare. They charged he’s sacrificing the health of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans out of fear of upsetting Republican hardliners in the legislature.

They dismissed his set of demands for the Obama administration as meaningless drivel. The governor insists he’s putting forth reasonable conditions for his acceptance of Medicaid expansion, but Democrats are calling that a lot of “confusing nonsense” intended to deflect attention from his faintheartedness.

"We’re the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have some type of universal health care coverage. The other countries in the world manage this, civilized countries manage this. The whole idea of this is to get control of the cost. This is a very chicken way to approach government," the House's No. 2 Democrat, Nashville Rep. Mike Turner, said.

"We have the ability to bring that money in with no strings attached for at least three years to give needed coverage for that period of that," House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said, adding the state could cancel coverage after that time if need be.

"It’s not very complicated," Nashville Rep. Mike Stewart said. "The governor had a choice between being a leader and ensuring hundreds of thousands of working families were insured. Or he could be a political coward and pander to his base. He chose the latter course.

"What we just did was we gave up $1 billion at least, money that our taxpayers have put into the federal system," Stewart added. "The result is we’re telling a bunch of Tennessee families ‘you can’t have health care.’ And the only reason we’re doing that obviously is because the governor and his staff have decided it’s politically advantageous not to do that and to pander to the far right wing of their party."

Statement from state Democratic Party chairman Roy Herron:

"Deuteronomy 30 urges us to 'choose life,' but self-proclaimed 'pro-life' Republicans applauded the governor denying health insurance to 300,000 Tennesseans in working families, even though that means each week another parent, another child, another loved one — or two — will die," Herron said. "Reactionary and radical Republicans should never again call themselves 'pro-life,' not while condemning working Tennesseans without health insurance to die."

In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in an article called “Mortality and Access to Care among Adults after State Medicaid Expansions” that lives can be saved by expanding Medicaid.

"Tennessee should choose science instead of selfishness, people instead of politics, life instead of death," Herron said.

Senate Democratic Caucus press release:

Gov. Bill Halsam promised a decision on expanding Medicaid today, but instead delivered a “no” dressed up as a year of delayed action and indecision.

“We expected clarity today on Medicaid, but all we got was confusion," Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Sen. Lowe Finney said. “Our rural hospitals and the uninsured will be the ones to suffer."

The governor gave a definitive “no” on expanding Medicaid. He instead pitched a so-called “Tennessee plan,” but it’s unclear whether the plan will work. Meanwhile, federal payments to hospitals for uncompensated care will end Jan. 1.

“This is a time when the people of Tennessee need clear, precise and bold leadership, and Governor Haslam offered none of that today,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said. “It’s a failure of our moral obligation to protect the health and welfare of the most vulnerable among us. It’s a failure that will be paid with the lives of the working poor in our state — this is quite simply shameful.”

According to the Tennessee Hospital Association, the projected statewide job loss without the Medicaid expansion will be 90,000 jobs. In addition, they estimate that there will be an economic loss to the state of nearly $13 billion.

“I truly believed that the governor was going to use this opportunity to show real leadership,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “Instead we’ve seen more of the hand-wringing and delayed action that we’ve become accustomed to. Lives will be lost while we wait for a real decision.”

Hospital administrators, health care advocates, chambers of commerce, mayors of cities both big and small, and many others have implored the governor over the past year to expand Medicaid.

“The governor made this decision in a vacuum without consulting leaders from either party,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “We’ve heard from a broad coalition of groups who will suffer if we don’t expand Medicaid, and apparently their concerns fell on deaf ears.

“It matters who governs.”

Tennessee Health Care Campaign's Brad Palmertree:

To say that we are disappointed would be an understatement. Governor Haslam had the opportunity to show real leadership for the people of Tennessee. We all know that those who need insurance the most are usually the ones who cannot afford it. Because of his decision, there will still be hundreds of thousands of uninsured Tennesseans. These will be children who will go without needed vaccinations, baby boomers who will continue to put off needed care, and individuals living with disabilities without needed aids.

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