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The Brand New Tennessee Waltz ... And a Thank You

The Brand New Tennessee Waltz ... And a Thank You

April 10, 2005

In 1993, Tennessee reinvented its Medicaid program under the name "TennCare" to cover hundreds of thousands of the state's uninsured. Because of funding pressures, Democratic Governor (and former HMO executive) Phil Bredeson (who promised in 2002 to protect TennCare) is pushing to disenroll 323,000 and to cut benefits from 400,000 more. It's looking increasingly like he will get away with this -- stay tuned and we'll know by July.

The TennCare Saves Lives Coalition has put together a booklet with personal stories of TennCare enrollees at risk. Meet two of them:

Bart Comisky from Donelson TN is 61 and has had five bypasses. His wife, Atha, (51) has had kidney cancer and has Crohn's disease. Both are uninsurable. They own a small business and, if dropped from TennCare, will not be able to obtain healthcare unless they can pay thousands per month. They will probably be forced to sell their home if Atha cannot find a job with health benefits. "We need you to solve the problem because it's not going away. Will our ER visits save taxpayers money?"

Lori Smith (39) from Nashville has multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, and has had two abnormal pap smears. Without TennCare, she will lose her ability to work and remain self supporting, and will have to file for bankruptcy. Lori works full time and qualified for TennCare because she is "uninsurable." She pays monthly premiums and co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs. Her MS and Lupus require regular monitoring and continuous drug therapy, enabling her to work full-time and remain self supporting. Her doctor wants her to start a drug for her MS, but this drug costs over $1300 per month. "I want to continue to work and support myself and not become disabled, but I need insurance medical care to do it."
Last Friday, HCFA hosted our 20th anniversary celebration and awards dinner, honoring Dr. James Mongan of Partners Healthcare, Dr. Mark Doherty of the Dorchester House, and the Island Health Plan. Special thanks to all our generous sponsors and to the 600 who came to the event. Looking across the crowded hall, it's clear there's a real movement in our state to address the issue of health care access for all. Thank you!