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September 01, 2005

No On Phil

Bob Herbert, in a column today, says all that should ever need to be said about Phil Bredesden's presidential ambitions:

The word in Tennessee is that Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, has presidential aspirations. I find that interesting. Perhaps he can run on the success he's had throwing sick people off of Medicaid.

Thanks to Mr. Bredesen's leadership, Tennessee is dumping nearly 200,000 residents, some of them desperately ill, from TennCare, the state's Medicaid program. Cindy Mann, a research professor and executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, concisely characterized the governor's efforts:

"What he's decided to do is save health care costs simply by not giving people health care."

How's that for a solution to a tough public policy issue?

What is happening in Tennessee is profoundly cruel. The people being removed from the rolls - some of them disabled, some suffering from such serious illnesses as cancer and heart disease - are mostly working-poor individuals who cannot afford private insurance. They are being left with no coverage and in many instances are in a state of absolute panic.

"People are going to die because of this," said Carolyn Cagle, a widow from Paris, Tenn., whose 34-year-old son, Lloyd, is a diabetic who has already lost part of his right foot. He is being dropped from the program.

I'm honestly unsure that I could even vote for the guy. What he's done in Tennessee offends everything that I believe in, everything that makes me a Democrat. He should be defeated at home and shunned nationally for the cavalier, technocratic way he's treating the poor.

September 1, 2005 in Election 2008 | Permalink


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Why are you "unsure"?

Posted by: Goldberg | Sep 1, 2005 1:25:51 PM

I think Ezra was 'channeling' the DLC line here.........

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Sep 1, 2005 1:49:16 PM


Posted by: Ezra | Sep 1, 2005 2:13:49 PM

If you knew more about TN politics and the years of mismanagment of TennCare by Republicans, you'd be a lot less hasty to dump everything on Bredesen.

Posted by: bunny | Sep 1, 2005 3:05:21 PM

Know what? Doesn't matter. This should be sacrosanct. Bredesen should take it to the people. He should fight to raise taxes for it. There's little I'm an absolutist on, but this strikes me as unconscionable, no matter the political circumstances.

Posted by: Ezra | Sep 1, 2005 3:18:48 PM

It is even worse than you imagine. He wasn't penned in by a hostile legislature and populace that rejected his proposals. He never tried several things that could have helped. He just ... left people to die.

Posted by: kevin | Sep 1, 2005 3:22:56 PM

Cripes, I'm the one who has to come to the defense of a Democrat?

I'm busy right now but there was a pretty big "pitchfork rebellion" amongst the Tennesseeans when the *Republicans* proposed increasing taxes in order to pay for that stuff. Big dust up. Think reaction from Clinton's "gays in the military" trial balloon. Yeah, that big.
The GOP was summarily romped in the next election, primarily because of that. NO tax hikes, period. The system is too filled with waste and fraud.

So, Bredesen decided that the system will be streamlined instead of throwing pearls before the swine & wasting more. And even though it's humorous that someone actually believes what Bob Herbert writes, no, you shouldn't support Bredesen for President. Not your type of fellow.

He could actually win.

Posted by: RW | Sep 1, 2005 3:39:14 PM

"So, Bredesen decided that the system will be streamlined instead of throwing pearls before the swine & wasting more. And even though it's humorous that someone actually believes what Bob Herbert writes, no, you shouldn't support Bredesen for President. Not your type of fellow."

Crap. Sorry, but its crap. Bredesen tried nothing -- not taking the paperwork out of the hands of HMOs to save money, not joining other states to purchase drugs in bulk, not cutting down on doctor fraud. Nothing. he was a political coward and simply abandoned people to die.

Posted by: kevin | Sep 1, 2005 3:42:25 PM

"abandoned people to die"?

You couldn't lay the overwrought hyperbole on any thicker?

Hey, don't listen to me, guys. Cuss out Bredesen and demand that everyone else pay for your doctor's visits (why should I do that, again?).


Posted by: RW | Sep 1, 2005 9:30:50 PM

It didn't exactly help that Gordon Bonnyman, the "advocate" for TennCare patients in the courts, refused to compromise at all on limiting the type of care covered leaving Bredesen with no choice but to cut the rolls themselves. The guy has a clear conflict of interest as he tries to represent both the people who don't want their coverage trimmed and those who are afraid of being dumped completely.

I don't know if he intended to make the situation as bad as possible in some Naderite belief that things must get worse before they get better. If he had any sense of the political landscape he would know that we had one of the most progressive state health care systems in the country (thanks Ned Ray!) and it's crucial to salvage as much as we can, rather than expect a crisis to spur some sort of public outcry for more revenue. While I do think Bredesen could have fought harder for less drastic cuts, he's doing decently well with a bad situation. At least we still have some of our safety net. Take that Mississippi!

Posted by: scott | Sep 2, 2005 2:17:01 AM

If a person falls off TENNCARE, do they get picked up by Medicaid?

Posted by: RAOUL | Sep 2, 2005 11:06:56 AM

Uh, Bredesen's handling of this issue has increased my admiration for him.

Tennessee is a poor state and it doesn't have enough money to fund all kinds of health care for everyone. It needs to use rationing--that's the only pragmatic approach.

I know a registered nurse who works in a hospital and is opposed to TennCare because she says it's been too abused by the patients.

Bredesen is not the problem--he's just left holding the bag.

Posted by: Vicki Meagher | Sep 2, 2005 11:56:47 AM

I am a Tennessean now living in Atlanta, so I have not followed this very closely, but what everyone needs to understand about Tennessee is that it has a lousy system of public finance and revenue. While it has a fairly steep state sales tax (7% plus local options, I believe), there is NO state income tax on wages - only on limited classes of investment income.

Income taxes have been repeatedly proposed and shot down in flames. Ned McWherter, a strong two-term Dem governor, tried to get a small income tax through, and failed miserably. I said at the time if he couldn't do it in those circumstances, it would never happen. More recent attempts by Don Sundquist led to near-riots outside the state capitol (and as the commenter noted, the change of the Gov mansion back to the Dems).

It's hard to explain it, but Tennessee just can't get into a modern or progressive revenue structure. It is a miracle that the state operates as well as it does given its limitations. Bredesen is simply playing the card he has. I deplore the result, but I can't say I blame him. He can't create massive amounts of money from thin air, and there is no "Peter" to rob to pass the money to TennCare Paul.

And TennCare was a pretty extensive system of public health care - it went far beyond Medicaid and similar forms of indigent care. Great policy only works if there is the collective will to fund it. I would expect the system resulting from Bredesen's changes will at least be the equivalent of other southern states (not particularly high praise, unfortunately).

Posted by: Big Al | Sep 2, 2005 5:10:40 PM

I won't waste too much time echoing the above comments that the situation in Tennessee is more complicated and Bredesen's performance more defensible than Ezra is giving him credit for.

The real issue in this case isn't how Bredesen has handled the situation with TENNCARE. It's that the kind of leader the Democrats (and Tennessee, and the nation) really need right now is someone who would have the political will and skills to convince the people of Tennessee to modernize their outdated and very regressive public finance system. It's not exactly Bredesen's fault or unique to him that he can't do it--he follows a long line of elected officials of both parties here. And I can't think of anyone else in the running right now at the national level who I'd believe has that set of skills. But this is the kind of leadership Democrats need to regain power and lead the country where it needs to go.

Posted by: flippantangel | Sep 14, 2005 3:42:03 PM

Has our Governor (Phil Bredesen) and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals taken over Tennessee? What has happened to the sovereignty of the state of Tennessee? Have our legislatures given up their and the voters rights and the autonomy of the state to let two men (Bredesen and a 6th Circuit Court Judge in Ohio) dictate the laws and provisions that my Tennessee legislatures made? What has happened to the Democratic process and the legislatures accountability to the people of the state to make the decisions? Is the government running the country or is the people running the government? Does anybody who posted on this forum even know what democracy is? I paid those higher tax rates for years and now as a disabled person who is uninsurable won't have coverage because paving the roads seem to have president over human life. Why do you think these words a written in this order, "Life" Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness? I can't heal myself, I'm not a Physician. If you don't know what the business end of a shovel is for I can show you in about two minutes. If you are able to work and hold a job and provide then get out a shovel and patch your own highway. I paid for that too! You still got your roads where is my health care? You say the government didn't guarantee me health care well neither did the government guarantee you roads. What "is" more important?

Posted by: Randy | Nov 15, 2005 9:44:50 AM

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