Healthcare most important issue for residents District 78
The top concern for Tennessee District 78 voters is health care. This has become clear to me after my campaign team members have knocked on over 7,000 doors and made over 7,000 phone calls asking voters how I might best serve them, if so elected. Some have devastating descriptions of having deductibles of $5,000, $7,000, and $10,000, while others choose not to purchase health insurance and are one accident or one illness from bankruptcy.
Health care costs appear to be the proverbial can we just keep kicking down the road. Rising insurance rates, high deductibles, and eligibility requirements create obstacles to accessible health care for many of our neighbors. We all pay as a society when people have difficulty obtaining essential health care. Cost of preventive services or treatment for chronic conditions can lead people to put off doctors’ visit. They may struggle to pay for medication for themselves and their children. Inadequate treatment for health problems can interfere with people’s ability to support themselves and their families. In addition to the financial and emotional strain associated with undertreated health problems, people with health concerns may have with less time and energy to participate in community organizations and faith communities, or local governance. The cost of care for uninsured individuals who show up in emergency rooms because that is the only place they have access contributes to rising hospital costs for those who are insured.
As is, Tennessee has made an economical and moral mistake by not accepting the Medicaid expansion. This leaves an estimated 300,000 – thousands who are veterans – of the poorest Tennesseans without medical access. Those who would qualify for expanded Medicaid earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $16,000 annually.
Tennessee missed out on over $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursements because we did not accept expansion, and that increases by $3.8 million daily. Since 2010, nine rural hospitals have closed – hospitals that accepted many Medicaid clients. At this same time, Arkansas accepted Medicaid expansion and has suffered no rural hospital closings. Accepting Medicaid expansion does not solve all the rural hospitals’ problems, but states with Medicaid expansion have experienced fewer rural hospital closings than those that chose not to expand it. The latest polling suggests that over 63 percent of Tennesseans support Medicaid expansion with the use of federal funds.
I do think that all Tennesseans should have access to essential health care. Currently, we have the option of Medicaid expansion that is packaged to go. Virginia just accepted it. Governor Haslam tried twice to introduce some form of this expansion, but the State legislature refused to accept it. I think we should take it. My opponent, in contrast, co-sponsored the bill that kept Medicaid out of Tennessee and does not mention health care as a concern in any of her campaign literature. For most of the Tennesseans I have had the pleasure to chat with, this the most important issue facing us.
John Patrick, Candidate for Tennessee House of Representatives, District 78