Election 2016: House candidates weigh options for Tennesseans needing health care

Election 2016: House candidates weigh options for Tennesseans needing health care

Health care in Tennessee could become one of the key issues facing the legislature once it convenes in January. Here’s how your candidates see that conversation going.

Until the August primary, the Home Page will ask the candidates running for the legislature questions every week ranging across the board of issues facing Williamson County.

Health care in Tennessee could become one of the key issues facing the legislature once it convenes in January.

Here are this week’s questions:

How do you feel about Speaker Harwell’s task force plan to expand TennCare for the mentally ill and veterans? Is it enough to fill the coverage gap? How about Gov. Bill Haslam’s now-defunct Insure Tennessee? Were you for that or some aspects of it?

All candidates were asked the questions via email, with their responses in alphabetical order by district.

Steve Gawrys – District 61

Harwell’s task force is just the camel’s nose in the tent. TennCare, or ObamacareObamacare, has been shown to be a fiscal disaster. I opposed Insure Tennessee.

Charles Sargent – District 61

I applaud the goals of the speaker’s task force to assist the mentally ill and veterans. Until the proposal is finalized, it is impossible to evaluate the cost and effectiveness of the program.

I could not support Insure Tennessee as presented but look forward to working with the governor to find a way to improve healthcare for Tennesseans. We have to avoid repeating the mistakes of the TennCare expansion in the 1990s.

I certainly hope a Republican president and Republican Congress can repeal ObamacareObamacare and set us on a course for a better solution to the problem.

Glen Casada – District 63

Because Obamacare has proven to be a total failure with insurance rates escalating at an unsustainable rate, making it unaffordable for the average citizen, as well as driving up costs for us all and putting a major strain on federal and state budgets, we must determine a specific goal of what our role as a state must be regarding filling in the gap for those who are now uninsured without government either providing totally for their health care or assisting in health care coverage.

I believe the goal in the health care reform should be to drive down costs so our citizens can afford health insurance as well as provide assistance to those who truly cannot afford coverage.

I think the first step of any reform is to require all citizens to have a financial investment in their own health care, at least at some level. Everyone must pay some level of co-pays and monthly premiums for their health care because there is then an incentive for them to have at least some responsibility in their part in improving their own health, caring for their own needs. Haslem’s (sic) and Speaker Harwell’s plan call for this. The problem is that C.M.S. has nullified these requirements on every state that has attempted to implement these requirements.

Thus, if the most important factor of personal responsibility is deleted by the federal government, then I cannot support Gov. Haslem’s plan or Speaker Harwell’s phase II. Speaker Harwell’s phase I plan calls for coverage to our veterans and those with mental illness. Her plan does require personal responsibility, via co-pays and monthly premiums. If C.M.S. accepts her proposal, then I could support this part of Speaker Harwell’s plan.

One other item that is needed in the health care reform debate is to block grant our federal health care dollars back to the states.

With these dollars, Tennessee could do a much better job of providing coverage for our citizens. We would require personal responsibility, eliminate unnecessary coverage and bureaucracy and implement the free market system back into the health care system.

Courtenay Rogers – District 63

Today, more than 4,000 Williamson County residents, people who are working, can’t afford health coverage. Gov. Bill Haslam proposed a conservative Insure Tennessee plan that has the support of the majority of Tennesseans (both Republicans and Democrats), hospitals, insurance companies, chambers of commerce and clergy. In any reasonable situation, Insure Tennessee would have passed. But because our politics are so broken, it never even came up for a vote.

The new plan created by Speaker Harwell’s task force is not enough, and as much as I agree that veterans and people with mental illness deserve coverage, this could and should have been done two years ago. Doesn’t everyone deserve to have access to quality healthcare? A healthy community leads to a strong economy.

Holly McCall – District 65

I’m for any plan that helps our families access health care, and coverage for the mentally ill and for veterans is a start. All of us with veterans in our families know the VA could use assistance caring for our vets, given the aging Baby Boom generation and large numbers from the more recent Middle Eastern conflicts needing care.

But, it’s not enough, since it only covers a segment of needs on the health care spectrum. Further, there’s no guarantee the federal government will approve it, since there’s a preference for states to expand Medicaid without restrictions on who can participate.

I would have voted for Insure Tennessee, and the failure of the legislature to act is one issue that spurred me to enter this campaign. Insure Tennessee was proposed by our Republican governor and multiple polls from a variety of organizations demonstrated broad support for the plan from voters of all political inclinations, yet our elected officials failed to pursue it. Our legislature has become like Congress: mired in partisan politics to the detriment of those of us who elected them. It’s time to do the right thing.

Sam Whitson – District 65

I think the legislature will be ready in January for a thoughtful and thorough discussion of potential options for addressing those who are uninsured in Tennessee. The best solution is a market-based approach that will include more patient accountability and not a government mandate that brings us more of the problems associated with Obamacare.

The outcome of the next presidential election will determine if the Federal government will actually work with our state to provided sustainable and affordable health care for all working Tennesseans.

Emily West covers Franklin and Williamson County government and schools for Home Page Media Group. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

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