PHOTO: Sen. Mark Green sits inside his Cool Springs campaign office on Thursday, July 12, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Inside his Cool Springs office, Sen. Mark Green wraps up a 40-minute media interview like he would one for a job.
“No one in this race has the breadth of leadership, experience, and have delivered like I have,” he said, resting his case.
A Tennessee senator representing District 22 north of Nashville, Green was re-elected to his seat in 2016 after first winning the district in 2012.
He was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and raised in Mississippi. It was there in high school that he saw a West Point catalog on his guidance counselor’s desk.
Both the counselor and Green’s father told him it was unlikely he would get in. “Which was just enough for me to say, ‘OK, I’ll show you!’” he chuckled.
At West Point and after, Green planned a life of service in the military, but after his father suffered an esophageal rupture, he was awed by the attending physicians’ care.
“They saved my dad’s life, and it had such an impact on me,” he said.
Green began medical school in his early thirties while serving in the military, graduating from Wright State University.
After 20 years, he finished his military career as an Army physician, serving two tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom and one to Afghanistan as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Upon the urging of former lieutenant governor and senate speaker Ron Ramsey, Green first considered the run for general assembly in 2011.
After a visit to West Point for his 25th class reunion, a classmate reminded Green of the school’s mission.
“The mission of West Point remains to train leaders for a lifetime of service to the nation,” a classmate said during a presentation.
“It was sort of a moment of being,” Green said, referencing the Virginia Woolf work to explain the revelation he experienced. “I took taxpayer funds to go to a college whose purpose was to create a leader who would serve the nation for his lifetime.”
Green said he learned about politics during his first run, experiencing things that would “pale in comparison” to the negative attention he received as President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Army.
Secretary of the Army nomination
Last year, Green came under fire by Democrats for comments on Muslims and transgender people, leading him to drop out.
Green said his comments were taken out of context, and insists that he is no bigot.
“I would say, they don’t know me, and that’s totally wrong,” he said.
He cited his stance during an event in 2007 as supportive of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military.
“A gay guy has just as much right to defend his country as I do,” he said.
He mistakenly referenced the “DSM-6” instead of DSM-V, in which the classification of transgender as a disease was changed in 2013 to “gender dysphoria,” which is what Green said he referred to.
“More political B.S.,” he said. “Just attacking a Trump nominee.”
Green stands by his statements that he doesn’t want Muslim faith taught in Tennessee schools.
“Honestly, I don’t think we should teach the Lord’s Prayer,” he added. “Leave that to the churches, the synagogues, and the mosques.”
Green touts his business acumen as proof he’s prepared to represent Tennessee’s economy: last year, he sold the healthcare company he founded in 2009, building it to $200 million in annual revenue.
He created Align MD as a way for physicians to own a stake in their local hospital after noting the disconnect between healthcare corporations and physicians.
Instead of expanding Medicaid, Green said he wants to utilize a model similar to the one in his business, “to create revenue streams that work in the community where you live.”
“Healthcare operates on a flawed model,” he said. “The only way to fix healthcare is to put it back into a free market mode.”
By eliminating the middleman in the insurance industry, Green said people will be able to shop for the best rates and end up paying less.
Green referenced his TennCare Opt Out bill, which he thinks can work on a national level.
“It gives the patient a card that only will work at their pharmacist, their hospital, and their primary care doctor,” he explained. With $1,500 on the card, other monies are added to a catastrophic care plan fund. Whatever is not spent is rebated back in a check.
Green said this should help people stay out of the emergency room, where most high bills are racked up, and utilize their local physicians.
He is confident he will be able to convince other members of U.S. Congress to overhaul healthcare, too.
“I’ve been effective everywhere I’ve ever been,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Using a blue pen, Green sketched a diagram of how opioid use gets out of hand: from the prescription of opioids by a doctor, to the person acquiring the drugs both legally and illegally.
Death, “the worst possible outcome,” he said, occurs mainly from illegal substances coming from across the border.
“Most of the time, that’s not 100 percent of the time, but most of the time, are coming across the border,” he said, though admitting he did not know a percentage.
Along the continuum is educating physicians on the devastating effects of overprescription and the importance of keeping medications secure and destroying leftover pills.
Then, Green said, comes the philosophical question of how we experience pain.
During an unblind study he performed during his medical residency, Green said patients were given Motrin or Rufin EQ; both were the same dosage of ibuprofen. Because patients didn’t have the name recognition for the latter medication, Green said it created a placebo effect and the patients’ pain improved.
Through new DNA technology, he is hopeful targeted medication platforms of the future will curtail similar addiction.
“When you’re informed, you can keep it from happening,” he said.
Government duties in helping the poor
Should cities wish to identify as sanctuary in the future, a bill sponsored by Green would impose a punishment by removing future economic development grants.
What a lot of people don’t realize, a lot of Americans are very generous people,” he said. “I want to empower people, I don’t want to addict them to a government handout.”
“We have generations of children raised in public housing who aspire to get that check,” Green continued. “And that is a tragedy.”
Green also wants to reduce the national debt, which he says can be done, albeit through what he senses might be an unpopular option: raising the retirement age.
“We can’t do anything that hurts the people that are expecting that,” he cautioned. “So we can really only change it for folks that are a long way out from retirement.”
The debt is another reason he opposes the expansion of Medicaid. “We’re going to be Venezuela very soon,” he said. “In six years, the interest on our debt will be bigger than our defense department budget.”
Rebuilding the military is an area Green supports, too. “I understand the geopolitical situation of the world, I understand the desperate situation the military is in right now.”
If elected, the first bill Green would work to pass involves companies investing in their employees who are recent graduates through helping match their student loan debt payments.
“I would like to allow businesses to pay off your student loans as a part of the pre-tax dollars that go into a 401k,” he said. “That’s a win, win, win,” he said.
Early voting begins Friday, July 13, 2018.
Occupation: Previous CEO and President of Align MD
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management, United States Military Academy; Master’s certificate in Information Systems Management, University of Southern California at Fort Knox, KY; M.D. from Wright State University.
Community involvement: Grace Community Church, member; Soldiers and Families Embraced board member; Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts of America board member; Reboot for Recovery board member; Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce member; Clarksville Rotary Club member; Tennessee Medical Association member; TMA Impact Club member.
Family: Wife, Camilla; children, Alexa and Mitchell
Visit his website here.