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Democrats Want a Special Legislative Session On “Insure Tennessee”

Advocates for Insure Tennessee are planning a road trip this summer, touring the state to educate citizens about the current health coverage gap after state lawmakers weren't able to pass Gov. Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan. Photo credit: wintersixfour/morguefile.com

Advocates for Insure Tennessee are planning a road trip this summer, touring the state to educate citizens about the current health coverage gap after state lawmakers weren’t able to pass Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan. Photo credit: wintersixfour/morguefile.com

Tennessee Democrats have called for a special legislative session to take a full vote on Insure Tennessee. And, since the state is passing up millions of federal dollars, the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) says it is organizing a statewide tour of informational meetings about the health coverage gap. More than 280,000 Tennesseans remain uninsured after state lawmakers failed to pass Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan in the most recent session. According to TJC Executive Director Michele Johnson, it’s important to understand that Insure Tennessee wouldn’t increase the state’s bottom line. “This basically is budget-neutral for Tennessee taxpayers,” says Johnson. “It results in no new taxes, and it brings in $2.7 million a day in federal funds.” Insure Tennessee is different than a Medicaid expansion, she explains, because it would offer vouchers to buy private insurance and require co-pays for services. Some oppose the program because it is funded through the Affordable Care Act. In addition to working families and students, an estimated 24,000 Tennessee veterans fall into the coverage gap. In addition, says TJC, 54 Tennessee hospitals are at risk of closing without the federal funding. Together, they employ 21,000 people and provide support to thousands of working families, Johnson says. “For people with chronic illnesses, or even people with young children who can’t access a hospital within two hours because their hospital closed due to politics – really, it’s the failure of our Legislature to take the dollars that are ours and bring them back to our state,” she says. Tentative tour dates and locations include: June 23, Chattanooga; June 29, Huntingdon; June 30, Brownsville; July 13, Gallatin; July 14, Centerville; July 16, Shelbyville; Aug. 3, Knoxville; Aug. 6, Kingsport; Aug.11, Morristown; and Aug. 25, Memphis.