Pam's Points: Haslam and Tennessee keep stepping backward

Pam's Points: Haslam and Tennessee keep stepping backward

March 15th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Tennessee's 'closed' health care doors

The Affordable Care Act's intent is to help Americans get affordable access to health care with insurance they choose and purchase, sometimes with a government subsidy.

Another intent of the ACA is to create what's called the "no wrong door" rule -- meaning people should be able to submit a single, streamlined application for all potential sources of health coverage, applying online, over the phone or in person through both federal and state agencies.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's administration seems to be deliberately scuttling that -- just as he and other Republican governors have tried to do with the entire ACA effort, simply because the GOP doesn't like the president or the Affordable Care Act. That program, by the way, is growing in both enrollment and popularity.

Here in Tennessee, No one-on-one, real-person help is offered for enrollment or re-enrollment in TennCare (the state's Medicaid program) -- just a computer kiosk where hopefully you know how to log in to the federal Heathcare.gov web site. Meanwhile, a new state computer system (funded with $32 million in ACA money) to determine TennCare eligibility remains unfinished. To make matters worse, the existing state computer system isn't set up to receive information from the federal system, so Tennesseans are lost in limbo-land.

It's all very convenient for Haslam's administration: they save money by not having enrollment helpers, they save money when applicants can't get final approval or re-approval. And they blame Obamacare. Wrongly.

Meanwhile, Tennesseans are still paying the same taxes. Worst of all, many of our neighbors are still without health insurance. And hospitals such as Erlanger are picking up the tab but not being paid more through Medicaid expansion, even though that's what our tax dollars already are earmarked for.

So here's a question: Who's going to find a way to make Haslam and his administration either pay us back or pay hospitals back -- and help sick people at the same time?

Haslam may have chance with Common Core

Tennessee lawmakers in the House on Thursday voted to delay the Common Core education program for two years.

A coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers used an unrelated bill on American government to force a reckoning on the controversial new teaching standards.

They voted 82-11 to freeze the program that has been rolling out gradually over the past three years and put off new testing that goes with the program until the 2016-17 school year.

Gov. Bill Haslam already has been fighting for Common Core, and on Wednesday he sent lawmakers a letter urging them not to unravel the standards or delay the testing.

But on Thursday, one lawmaker who led the fight to slow TN Core (the Tennessee name for Common Core) said, "Let's get it right. We're just moving too fast."

Seriously? Moving too fast?

In recent months, we received great news about school improvements: Tennessee made the largest gains of any state on the newest National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Much of the credit for the turnaround goes to new teaching programs in TN Core.

Good heavens, we can't have our students moving too fast and making the largest gains of any state now, can we. We'll just have to let our law-

makers mess that up, too.

Gov. Haslam still has time to defeat this ridiculous slow-down legislation, which now goes to the state Senate. But he'll need help.

Make your voices heard.