Tag Archives: healthcare

Choices: Care for Grandma or Tax Breaks for Millionaires?

Grandma got haslamedIf given the choice between spending tax dollars on care for Tennessee seniors who need nursing home services or a new $100 million annual tax break for the wealthiest families in our state, which would you choose?

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told grandma “you’re on your own” and chose to pad the pockets of his fellow millionaires and billionaires.

In a bit of solid reporting from The Tennessean, reporter Tom Wilemon found that 3,000 elderly Tennesseans who need nursing home care cannot get it because of Haslam budget cuts:

Under a program known as TennCare Choices, [some Tennessee seniors] could have selected either a nursing home or intensive at-home support from nurses and other health care providers. But the state, in an effort to curtail costs while meeting the health needs of aging baby boomers, set new rules that create a higher hurdle for families to qualify. Nearly 3,000 people who probably would have been judged to need nursing home care in early 2012 are instead getting only limited home visits.

The story explained in detail the horrific consequences some families and elderly couples are grappling with as a result of the Haslam administration’s decision to cut the nursing home program.

Cuts to programs for the poor and elderly are inevitable when the Republican governor and legislature place tax cuts for the rich and well connected above all else.

In the 2012 vice presidential debate, Joe Biden famously said, “show me your budget and I’ll tell you what your priorities are.”

Instead of strengthening healthcare security for elderly Tennesseans and working families, Haslam and the Republican majority prioritized tax breaks for millionaires and budget-busting handouts for business pals.

Haslam's tax cuts for the rich

Our economy grows strongest, not from the top-down, but from the middle-out and bottom-up.

Multimillion dollar tax breaks for Haslam and his wealthy friends undermine our economic future. As do skyrocketing out-of-pocket healthcare costs for some of our grandparents.

Ironically, the name of the nursing home program Haslam cut is “Choices.”

Tennessee seniors should remember this and choose anything but Haslam and his severe Republican majority come November.

Haslam’s Tuition Plan Shows Little Promise

Shiny Community College Push More Spin Than Substance

Trust MeBill Haslam is the most shameful kind of politician.

Don’t get me wrong. Haslam is surely a nice man. He’s probably a good father and husband. He presents well.

But his politics are shameful because, rather than fighting for the families he represents, he masterfully peddles false hope.

The most egregious example of Haslam’s hope peddling is, of course, Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid Expansion

Nearly a year ago, Haslam, in a big speech to the General Assembly, promised working families living without health coverage — more than 465,000 parents and children in Tennessee — that his office would submit a plan to get their families access to Medicaid coverage.

A year later, Haslam still peddles false hope talking about how hard he is trying. But he has refused to even produce a plan for public review. Leaders in the legislature filed an open records request to lay bare Haslam’s delay tactics.

Tennessee Promise

Much like his earlier initiatives, Haslam’s latest promise — a program to boost college graduation rates to 55% — is more publicity machine than actual plan.

Let me break it down for you. Haslam’s plan, called Tennessee Promise, would allow every high school graduate to attend community college free of charge for two years.

It sounds great when you hear it. But when you start scratching past the surface, you immediately uncover some inconvenient truths.

Tenn. Community Colleges Underperform Public Four-Year Colleges

Tennessee has the fifth lowest community college graduation rate in the nation. Only 8 percent of students graduate in two years and only 11.3 percent of students graduate within three years.

By comparison, nearly 20 percent of students graduate on time at four-year colleges and 45.5 percent of students graduate within six years — quadruple the rate.

Wow. Right? Public universities are four times more effective at getting students a degree than community colleges. The difference in graduation rates is even more pronounced among blacks and Latinos.

Breakthrough Collaborative, a national organization focused on boosting college graduation rates among underserved communities, issued a white paper in 2009 explaining why they focus on four-year college programs vs. community college.

“It is true that once students have their bachelor’s degrees, it makes little difference, in terms of earnings potential and job prospects, what path they took to get there. However, the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree is significantly reduced if a student starts her post‐secondary education at a community college, and the amount of time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree (and potentially, the amount of loans a student accrues) is greatly increased. Additionally, research shows that the kinds of students Breakthrough serves—low‐income, minority, first generation—are less likely to transfer from community colleges to four‐year colleges and earn bachelor’s degrees. Therefore, the research supports the fact that students are more likely to complete bachelor’s degrees if they start their post‐secondary educations at four‐year colleges or universities.

If the research says the most effective way to increase college graduation rates is to send student to four-year programs, why does Haslam’s plan focus on the most ineffective way to boost graduation rates?

Mostly Re-Branding

Because it’s not a new plan. It’s just a bit of nifty re-branding.

As The Commercial Appeal’s Wendi Thomas put it, Haslam’s promise is “basically a repackaging of these Wilder-Naifeh technical skills grants and tnAchieves, just expanded.”

Qualifying high school graduates in Tennessee can already get a $3,000 Hope scholarship to cover tuition at state community colleges — that’s about 80 percent of total tuition costs.

Both the Wilder-Naifeh technical skills grants and tnAchieves, which operates in 27 counties, work to close the community college funding gap even more.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

To make community college completely free, a roughly $800 gap per student, Haslam’s plan raids $300 million from the Hope Scholarship reserves, cuts Hope Scholarships by $1,000 for freshman and sophomores in four-year programs, and hikes tuition rates — again.

An official representing private colleges in Tennessee told WPLN Haslam’s plan isn’t fair to students in four-year programs.

“It’s a very laudable goal for the governor to want to provide access to the community colleges in this way, however, it really shouldn’t be done on the back of the freshmen and sophomores at the university level.”

Perhaps even worse is that Haslam’s funding mechanism raids the lottery scholarship reserves, which fund Hope Scholarships.

The Hope Scholarship was established to send more Tennessee students to four-year colleges. The program has been a smash success.

Unfortunately, Haslam’s new program cripples the Hope Scholarship’s ability to grow. With reserves down to $100 million, there will be no appetite to expand scholarships or increase grants, which is greatly needed due to inflation and year-after-year tuition hikes.

So instead of investing in four-year universities, which are four-times as effective at producing students with degrees, Haslam built a $34 million publicity machine that sounds nice but definitely won’t drive to 55.

Now that sounds like a clunker.

Haslam’s State of the State: Addressing Contradictions

Haslam Two FaceAfter a year of dithering on his stated aim to increase post-secondary graduation rates to 55 percent, Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday finally proposed a program to move toward accomplishing this goal.

Along with it, his budget includes college tuition hikes and scholarship cuts for freshman and sophomores.

Haslam has been using this kind of political doublespeak since he began running for governor four years ago and his State of the State speech Monday night was riddled with more of the same.

‘Tennessee Promise’

Haslam’s big announcement was a new $34 million government program, called Tennessee Promise, which would pay for graduating high school seniors to attend two years of community college free of tuition and fees.

Haslam budgets for the “Promise” by weakening the Hope Scholarship program and hiking tuition rates — again.

If the governor gets his way, Tennessee Promise would divert several hundred million dollars from the Tennessee Lottery reserve that underwrites the Hope Scholarship program. Haslam would also cut Hope Scholarship funding by $1,000 a year for qualifying freshmen and sophomores enrolled in four-year colleges.

To support two-year programs, Haslam’s plan would punish first- and second-year students at four-year universities. It would also severely restrict any future push to expand the successful Hope Scholarship program, which has provided high-performing students reliable tuition assistance, but hasn’t kept pace with inflation.

The father of the Hope Scholarship, now-Congressman Steve Cohen explained the problem with Tennessee Promise in an interview with The Commercial Appeal.

Preparing students to win the jobs of tomorrow is crucial for our state’s economic future, but stealing crucial funding from students and four-year universities to bolster two-year programs misses the point.

More Doublespeak & Contradictions

The ‘Promise’ was a glaring example, but there was plenty more Haslam doublespeak from his speech, where his actions have contradicted his rhetoric.

Teacher Pay: For months the governor has openly bragged about his intention to make Tennessee the “fastest growing” state for teacher pay. He repeated himself again at the State of the State.

Haslam did not mention that this year’s pay raise was financed with savings from the deep cuts Haslam’s administration made to the teacher salary schedule last year.

Taxes: Haslam yowled about a new $80 million budget deficit, but refused to acknowledge that his massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, like himself, played any part in creating the deficit.

In fact, Haslam’s tax breaks for the rich, which will dig a $1 billion hole in the state budget over a decade, could have paid for his entire Tennessee Promise program and spared cuts to other vital programs that serve Tennesseans.

But Haslam and the Republican majority would rather cut programs for working families and saddle students with more debt than ask the wealthiest Tennesseans to do their share to invest in our economic future.

Healthcare: Once again, Haslam said how important it was for Tennessee families to have health coverage. He then told Tennessee’s uninsured, working poor to keep dreaming ‘cause Medicaid expansion ain’t happening on his watch.

Best Managed State: Haslam crowed about Tennessee being named third best managed state.

He left out that his Department of Children’s Services failed to respond to children in need or even account for more than a hundred dead children in its care.

Haslam also skimmed past the preventable deaths of disabled Tennesseans in the care of his Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities.

Haslam glossed over his office management plan at the Department of General Services, which secured a $330 million no-bid, sweetheart contract for his business pals.

Never said a word about the $73 million of fraudulent and improper payments and crushing backlogs at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

What did you take away from Haslam’s State of the State?

Brandon Puttbrese is a public relations specialist and former communications director at the Tennessee Democratic Party. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.com

Medicaid Expansion: It’s all about politics…

Some more news on the Medicaid Expansion front yesterday.

State Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) informed us in a release yesterday that Gov. Haslam’s decision to not expand Medicaid in Tennessee will cost small businesses $72 million in tax penalties.

How Much Money will we give away?

How Much Money will we give away?

Way to run government like a business Gov. Haslam! Not only are you costing the state money…you’re costing employers money as well. That’s some economic miracle you’ve put together there! /snark

While some in the State Senate are looking for ways to patch the political stalemate, big time financial guys are bewildered at the state’s political leader’s fealty to what amounts to nothing more than political position.

The end result is rural hospitals, who will start feeling the pain first when uncompensated care payments are cut, are going to have to put pressure on rural politicians who will at first fight, then yield, then trumpet their achievement from the top of the highest hill as the savior of the local hospital…

In the mean time, Tennessee has given up over $57,000,000 dollars since January 1st thanks to the decision to not expand Medicaid.

Morning Coffee – Did You Get the Number of that Truck Edition

Folks, I’m here to tell you that at some point in the last week, I ran out of places to notice any new tire tracks that might have appeared on my person.

Yeah, that’s right, I feel “runt over” in a couple of ways that I’m not entirely ready to deal with right now, but let’s just say I’ll be glad when May 4th is here and finals are over. I need a break.

We’re gonna keep this short and sweet this morning, because I’ve got more things on my plate than a contestant in a pancake stacking competition.

Time for the Coffee…

Braisted and GoldnI talk about the Yarbro/Henry primary and SJR127. Phrase of both posts:”rape, it ain’t what it used to be”. *sigh*

I think I’ll call this post the “Frog Jump Stomp”.

Meet your Tennessee Highway Patrol Dispatcher and Trooper of the year. *cue the music*

Yesterday we talked about Chickens and healthcare. Mike Bell thinks it works better with veggies.

Try to have fun out there today. The weekend is just around the corner.

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

From the, “You can’t be serious” department, HuffPo reports on an alternative Healthcare proposal from a candidate for US Senate. Her prescription? Chickens.

Sue Lowden, a Republican candidate challenging Majority Leader Harry Reid for his Nevada Senate seat is refusing to back down from an earlier suggestion that America consider a medical barter system as an alternative to current health care solutions.

On Monday Lowden took the idea one step further.

“Before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor,” Lowden told a local news station. “They would say I’ll paint your house.”

Here’s the video:

Quick poll: How many doctor would take a chicken for healthcare?

None – 100%

I have no words…

See Also:
Southern Beale

Real Life Stories of Healthcare…

The Knoxville Metro Pulse has the story of an uninsured woman whose family is seeking donations to help pay for her medical bills.

…Since his mother’s stroke, Josh has been working 60-plus-hour weeks. Babs was admitted to the hospital March 21 and was unresponsive for four days. Josh is praying for her to recover, but worried that she will be “dumped” from the hospital prematurely because she has no insurance—and few options besides the glass jar.

When Tennessee took federal stimulus money last year, Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office promised to reopen TennCare programs that have been shut down in 2008 for financial reasons. This is happening at a glacial pace.

The Headricks might qualify for TennCare under the “Spend Down” category, which covers families with no savings or resources to qualify for assistance. The restaurant, however, could be a stumbling block, although the building is rented and revenues are limited.

And in the meantime, Josh has immediate, day-to-day worries. Babs carries most of her recipes around in her head, and Josh is struggling to recreate them. The hardest thing, he says, has been trying to figure out how she makes her turtle brownies.

For many owners of family businesses, the reality is that paying for insurance is just to darn expensive even if you’re healthy. For people who are reaching an age where they may soon qualify for Medicare, coming up with the high premiums can be overwhelming, causing people to take the risk that Babs Headrick took.

Hopefully, the new Healthcare Reform bills will help, but we still have 5 months before the earliest provisions start kicking in. Until that process begins, I’m sure we’ll hear of more stories like that of Babs Headrick.

Save Our Money and Still “Benefit”

Aunt B. has a prediction, and some advice for our state legislators.

Because, let me tell you something–if a bunch of states bring a lawsuit against the federal government and the Supreme Court were to rule (which they will not in this case, but let’s just say…) that the underlying issue is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional. Not just for those states, but for the whole nation.

This means that we do NOT have to be a party to those lawsuits in order to benefit from them, if they go our way (whatever way “our” way is in this case). So, you can hate health care reform all you want and still take the position that we should stay out of the lawsuits and leave it to people who think they have money to burn to advance the cause.

Wish them well, hope and pray they succeed, but keep our money in our pockets.

I love it when an echo chamber emerges.

House Moves on Freedom From Healthcare Act

The Tennessee State House of Representatives moved the state closer today to joining 13 states currently suing, or planning to sue the federal government over Healthcare Reform.

According to Tom Humphrey three versions of the bill and a proposed constitutional amendment passed on voice vote.

The Senate has already taken up the measure, passing it 26-1 with 5 Senators present, not voting.

Glad the Republicans in the legislature think it’s a good idea to spend our tax dollars that are already in short supply for a frivolous lawsuit that will likely fail.

Stick that in your Tort Reform and smoke it.

Rolling Back Reagan

The New York Times’ David Leonhardt talks Healthcare Refom and the balance between the free market and government. His observations are pretty interesting.

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.

– Snip

Since Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign in 2007, he has had a complicated relationship with the Reagan legacy. He has been more willing than many other Democrats to praise President Reagan. “Reagan’s central insight — that the liberal welfare state had grown complacent and overly bureaucratic,” Mr. Obama wrote in his second book, “contained a good deal of truth.” Most notably, he praised Mr. Reagan as a president who “changed the trajectory of America.”

But Mr. Obama also argued that the Reagan administration had gone too far, and that if elected, he would try to put the country on a new trajectory. “The project of the next president,” he said in an interview during the campaign, “is figuring out how you create bottom-up economic growth, as opposed to the trickle-down economic growth.”

Since 1980, median real household income has risen less than 15 percent. The only period of strong middle-class income growth during this time came in the mid- and late 1990s, which by coincidence was also the one time when taxes on the affluent were rising.

For most of the last three decades, tax rates for the wealthy have been falling, while their pretax pay has been rising rapidly. Real incomes at the 99.99th percentile have jumped more than 300 percent since 1980. At the 99th percentile — about $300,000 today — real pay has roughly doubled.

The laissez-faire revolution that Mr. Reagan started did not cause these trends. But its policies — tax cuts, light regulation, a patchwork safety net — have contributed to them.

The key here is Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular understand that for the nation to function in a manner that benefits all of us in the long run there has to be a balance between markets and government. The free-wheeling free-marketeers that have dominated the political discourse over the past 30 years do not.

In that time, we’ve incorrectly framed the issue. It’s not that one or the other is good or bad (markets/government), but that both need each other as a counterbalance to ensure that we all have the opportunities of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” for all, rather than just the lucky few.