As TennCare was bankrupting the state, Dem. Gov. Bredesen cut the rolls and now more than a half million Tennesseans are without any health insurance. To fix it, he has proposed a program called Cover Tennessee. It consists of three major initiatives:

  1. CoverTN: A “partnership between the state and small businesses to help working Tennesseans buy affordable health insurance”, according to the (Democrat) party line. The state, employer and individual all kick in about $50 a month each to pay for the plan. If the employer doesn’t want to play, the individual can cover it with another $50.

    Bredesen claims that CoverTN will not require high deductibles on the front end, only modest co-pays – about $25 for a doctor’s visit and $10 for a generic prescription. Workers will be able to transport their coverage between jobs. “Initially, the focus will be on workers earning $24,000 a year or less and small businesses such as restaurants, retail shops and landscaping firms. It could be expanded to allow broader participation.”

  2. CoverKids: The state pays for health insurance for uninsured children in homes with incomes up to $50,000 a year for a family of four. Families with higher incomes will be allowed to buy into the plan.
  3. AccessTN: Provides health insurance to adults who can afford health insurance, but can’t get it because of pre-existing medical conditions. This will be limited to a pool of 10,000 people and the state will cover the costs.

The Executive Director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign is borderline-outraged, publishing a disparaging point-by-point analysis of the CoverTN proposal, beginning with:

The governor’s health care reform is going through its full election cycle. Before his election, he promised to reform TennCare. After his election, he successfully cut off the sickest and most expensive people and is now proposing to replace those people with younger and healthier people. This is the dream of any insurance company: Cover young, healthy adults and children and let older and sicker adults fend for themselves. It is also the dream of any politician: Expand coverage during an election year.

GOP lawmakers, too, are somewhat skeptical because the program does not address the shortcomings of the current TennCare program.

TennCare costs billions to provide health care to over a million Tennesseans, mainly because since its inception the Nashville-based advocate group Tennessee Justice Center has filed lawsuit after lawsuit challenging every aspect of the program, expanding it to the point where bureaucracy wasted millions of dollars and fraud robbed millions of dollars from the working class. GOP lawmakers want to make certain this won’t happen again:

“We have to be able to be sure we can manage this program in a fiscally responsible way,” Mumpower, R-Bristol, said of Cover Tennessee. “If we pass this program, I want to be sure it is lawsuit-proof, where the Tennessee Justice Center can’t run the program the way it did with TennCare. I want to make sure we don’t overcommit ourselves financially and it be a runaway spender like the TennCare program has. … I don’t want to be looking back in 10 years and have helped create another TennCare.”

GOP Rep. Davis has similar concerns:

“I don’t think the people of Tennessee are striving for universal health care. … There are some governors across the nation who think that needs to take place,” said Davis, who is a candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by incumbent William L. “Bill” Jenkins. “If you look back 12 years ago when another president (Bill Clinton) and another first lady (Hillary Clinton) tried to push universal health care, there was a hue and cry that we didn’t want that.”

Mumpower added: “TennCare was a prime example that universal health care doesn’t work. … When you start to give away everything for free, people will take advantage of as much as they can get whether they need it or not.”

Both Mumpower and Davis offered solutions of their own, a more pro-business approach:

… Davis said small businesses should be allowed to participate in large insurance pools, while Mumpower suggested small businesses should be given tax incentives to offer their employees health insurance.

But in a stunning admission of pre-failure, Bredesen has already suggested that the program may be more expensive than initial projections indicate; perhaps so expensive that he would have to call the General Assembly into special session in order to pay for it:

A plan to provide health care for the working poor, children and people who cannot get insurance elsewhere, unveiled Monday by Gov. Phil Bredesen, could become more expansive – and expensive – if more people than expected want to join the plan, the governor told The Tennessean yesterday.

Bredesen indicated he would be hesitant to turn people away from the program, called Cover Tennessee, which is expected to insure 185,000 Tennesseans over the next three years at a cost of $190 million.

But if there is a flood of uninsured people wanting to sign up, Bredesen said he might call the General Assembly back into session to provide funding beyond what he has earmarked.

And that’s the problem. Bredesen says that he wants to start slow, but if people want in the program it won’t be long before the Tennessee Justice Center is in court forcing the state to expand the program, and then it’s a hop, skip and a jump to another bloated TennCare.

Technorati Tags: ,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
,
.