Tennessee Consumers Get a Word in on Health Care Repeal Debate

In the wake of health care reform repeal talk, Tennessee consumers stood with Tennessee Citizen Action, Tennessee Health Care Campaign, National Alliance on Mental Illness Tennessee, Tennessee Disability Coalition and SEIU Local 205 yesterday and revealed how they have been affected by our inadequate health care system.

During the press conference, Tennessee Citizen Action also called on Congressman Dr. Scott Desjarlais and State Sen. Mae Beavers to oppose repeal and side with the state’s hard-working families.

Speaking at the event was Nicole Cochran a self-employed Tennessean who has been adversely affected financially after a diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis; Ellen Bloomfield, a small business owner struggling to provide health insurance for her employees while also experiencing personal struggles within the system; Michael Chapman, a registered nurse who has seen first hand that we are all potential one catastrophic illness or accident away from financial ruin; Tony Garr of Tennessee Health Care Campaign; and Mary Mancini of Tennessee Citizen Action.

Watch TV coverage of the event:

State Capitol Rally To Fight Repeal Of Health Care Reform (WTVF Newschannel 5, 1/18/11)

Middle Tenn. voices heard on health care repeal (WKRN News 2, 1/18/11)

Local Woman Scared Health Reform Could Be Repealed (WKRN News 2, 1/18/11)

Health Care Reform Again Key Topic Of Debate (WSMV Channel 4, 1/18/11)

Read print coverage:

Health care advocates press case in Nashville (Tennessean, 1/18/11)

Press Release (TNReport.com, 1/18/11)

Reform v. Repeal; Mary & Co v. Mae & Co (TNReport.com w/ video, 1/18/11)

Tennessee health care reform backers cite benefits – Urge lawmakers to leave federal plan alone (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 1/19/11)

Ellen’s story:

Good morning. I am Ellen Bloomfield. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
As a small business owner, I place a high value on our free market system. My husband and I strongly believe in working hard and providing a quality product at a competitive price. We might like to charge more, but competition keeps us honest.

In the interest of competition, last year I sought a competitive bid for my personal health insurance. During the process, I was diagnosed with bone spurs protruding from my cervical spine. The sales rep offered me a new policy, but, of course, it did not cover my spine which had now become a pre-existing condition. He conferenced in an underwriter for his company who said point blank that “No insurance company is going to cover that now.”
So, my so-called choice was to stay with my current insurance which covered my spine or switch to another policy that wouldn’t. That is not a true choice. After paying into the insurance industry for 30 years, I now had only one viable option for my health insurance simply because I got older. My insurance company knows this and knows it can raise my premiums, and I have no choice but to pay the premium or take on a risk that no insurance company is willing to take on. That is not free market. That is not pricing subject to true competition which is what our nation and our economy were built on.

As a businessperson, I have a huge problem with an industry that increases its profit by not providing the service for which it receives payment

One further point I’d like to make is that right now our economy needs entrepreneurs who are willing to leave their jobs to start new businesses. Many of those entrepreneurs may be unable to start that new business if they can not responsibly leave their corporate insurance. Our economy needs the protection of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in order to create more jobs. Voting to repeal this act is a job killer.

In closing, I urge our representatives to vote to keep the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which Tennesseans so greatly need. Many are unaware that they are only one layoff away from being uninsured.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our representatives for their service. May God bless and protect them.

Michael’s story:

Hello, my name is Michael Chapman and I am a registered nurse, a veteran, a father and husband.
In my 13 years as a nurse and the last few as an activist for health care reform and equality I have many stories of people who have suffered needlessly due to lack of access, lack of money and lack of quality insurance to meet their medical needs.

A nurse’s primary responsibility outside of the direct care we administer is to advocate for the needs of their patients. I believe that in the broadest sense all people in my community, my state and my country are those that I must advocate for.

I have had patients over the years that ended up in the ICU and in critical condition because they either had no insurance and could not afford to treat their hypertension or diabetes or had useless insurance that provided no support for prevention and maintenance of their condition so they were unable to afford their medications and treatment to keep themselves healthy and out of the hospital.

Patients who do not have the resources to afford their medications will go without. People who have diseases like diabetes and hypertension do ok for a while without treatment but will end up in a hospital sooner than later and when they do, what would have cost hundreds to few thousands a year to treat now will cost tens to hundreds of thousands. The economics of doing nothing is what will bankrupt or families, our state and nation.
The current health care reform at very least provides an avenue for the uninsured and the underinsured to get care. I would have liked to have seen much more but this is a step in the right direction.

I have a family friend around my age who was an air traffic controller and veteran of the military who while receiving an injection of antibiotics for bronchitis, fell and hit his head and suffered a hemorrhage on both the front and back of his brain. His injury thankfully did not kill him but did nearly bankrupt him and his family. He was left with a seizure disorder, hearing loss, vertigo, memory loss and inability to walk without assistive devices. Due to his new medical reality he was unable to return to work doing what he had done all his life. He was unable to provide the income that had supported his family and unable to afford cobra to continue his insurance from his prior employer which had to let him go. He was able to finally get a high deductable, very expensive plan through a high risk pool that would not pay for occupational rehab, speech therapy and cognitive therapy that his previous plan had provided. This sealed his fate to being unable to ever get back what he had lost in a split second that day in his doctor’s office. He is however fortunate that he had a good job and that he had saved and put money aside or he would have fared much worse. He was able to pay for his medications and avoid frequent returns to the hospital but most are not as fortunate as him and that is why the Affordable care act is so important. Millions will now be able to become insured, find plans where there were none and get the care they deserve and need.

Ultimately we as a nation will pay for the medical needs of its people and I have found that prevention and maintenance treatment for people with chronic medical conditions is much cheaper and has better outcomes than if we wait for them to end up in my ICU.

NAMI’s statement:

NAMI TN sees one of the most significant immediate effects of the current health care reform bill as being the extension of benefits to children up to age 26. Symptoms of mental illness often manifest in late teens and early twenties, at a time when many young adults are aging out of the parent’s policies. Due to their symptoms they are not able to secure employment, or they themselves or their parents cannot afford independent policies for their conditions. This aspect of the new healthcare reform act is an important safety net.

Tennessee Citizen Action’s Statement:

When Tennessee Citizen Action started almost 16 years ago, one of the goals written in to our bylaws is ‘to improve access to quality, affordable health for all Tennesseans.’ It is with that mission in mind that we stand here today along with Tennessee Health Care Coalition, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Tennessee Disability Coalition, SEIU and Tennesseans Nicole Cochran, Ellen Bloomfield and Michael Chapman.

Today, the US House of Representatives, including newly-elected representative, Dr. Scott Desjarlais, will debate the repeal of of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and tomorrow they will vote on repeal. Last week, the Tennessee Tea Party delivered their legislative priorities to the State legislature, one of which was to reject the health care reform bill. Yesterday, State Senator Mae Beavers said she would bring back her bill that would do away with the obligation that all people participate in health care reform.

There are several problems with Congressman Desjarlais’s campaign for repeal, the Tennessee Tea Party’s plea for rejection, and Sen. Beavers’ plan for keeping the status quo.

First, so many Tennesseans are struggling in the current economy. They are struggling with massive unemployment. They are struggling to pay mortgages and keep their homes. They are struggling with rising food prices. They are struggling to keep their savings intact. They are struggling to educate their children. In other words, they are struggling harder than ever before to keep a toehold on the American Dream.

These are the urgent problems that Congressman Desjarlais, as well as our state legislature should be addressing. These are the urgent problems that need fixing.

Second, health care reform brings with it new consumer protections that are already helping to protect Tennessee families by bringing unprecedented transparency and oversight to the insurance industry:

  • Insurance companies are no longer allowed to drop coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, or cancel a policy without proving fraud;
  • Consumers can receive cost-free preventive services; including 995,000 seniors in Tennessee who have Medicare coverage and were forced to pay for an annual checkup or other important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • The rate review process will be strengthened to bring more transparency to proposed rate hikes and help states reign in unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance unaffordable for so many Tennessee families.
  • Parents can keep young adults on their plan until age 26; There are 23,100 young adults in Tennessee who could benefit from this option.

These are the fixes to the urgent problems that Rep. Desjarlais, as well as our state legislature, should be supporting and encouraging.

Third, the opposition to the individual mandate that is brewing in our state legislature and led by Senator Beavers is bizarre since it really is a conservative idea. The individual mandate would mean that there are no longer any freeloaders to the health care system.. The annual bill for the uninsured is more than $40 billion. Who pays for that? And why is the health care costs of those who get this kind of care shifted to everybody else? Everybody should participate in the system to bring down the costs of paying for the emergency room services of the uninsured.

Last, I would like to point out that the so-called “repeal” of the health care bill is really a distraction. The ultimate goal is dismantling of the consumer protections within the bill. Again, these consumer protections are what’s important to the health and well-being of all Tennesseans and are what puts us, and not insurance companies, in charge of our health care.

Tennessee consumers who benefit from the numerous protections in the law wonder where Congressman Desjarlais and State Senator Mae Beavers’ priorities are. The repeal plan – any repeal plan – takes away tangible, real-world benefits from the struggling families of Tennessee.


Tennessee Citizen Action (TNCA) is a public interest and consumer rights organization. Its mission is to work tirelessly to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in



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3 Responses to “Tennessee Consumers Get a Word in on Health Care Repeal Debate”
  1. Paul Hawkins says:

    I heard one of your representatives on the Steve Gill show this morning, in a somewhat spirited debate, and I have to say here Very Clearly –

    Please PLEASE Do NOT Be A Represenative For Me !!!
    Your organization does NOT represent MY values nor my World View !!!
    If you have to say something in an interview like “We represent all Tennesseans, except Paul Hawkins.” then do that.

    What REALLY turned me off was two comments she made during the interview:
    “Let’s not debate the issues…” and “Let’s just talk about the things we agree on.”
    She giggled during one of those statements, but it is No laughing matter when the Progressive Democrat Party refuses to debate Real Issues and we’re just expected to Go Along with whatever crap the 0bama Regime wants to shove down on us.

    This Healthcare Deform Act needs to never have been passed in the first place.
    Thank you to the apathetic Republicans in 2006 for helping get this done to us.

  2. Mary Mancini says:

    Paul, What are your values? Maybe we’re closer than you think. For instance, I want to debate the issues but I also want to start from a point of agreeing on something. I think we can agree that pre-existing conditions shouldn’t exclude people from getting affordable health care.


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