It was a heck of a party, jammed to the rafters and brimming with overflow energy. The only problem was that the chief invited guests were a no-show, though no one was much surprised by that. We're talking about last Saturday's town hall on health care at the IBEW union hall on Madison, sponsored by a generous assortment of local organizations devoted to the subject and dedicated to the preservation of the Affordable Care Act, currently under threat of elimination by a GOP-dominated Congress and a fellow-traveling tag-along president.
In theory, Tennessee's two Republican Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both regarded as antagonistic toward the ACA (aka Obamacare) were to be the guests of honor, but, as was relayed with heavily underscored irony early on by co-host Mary Green of the progressive group Indivisible, both senators had responded that they had "schedules that would not allow them to come."
That got an appropriate mix of groans, sardonic laughs, and boos from the audience, and the laughter got more uproarious when Green drew attention to the fact that Alexander and Corker, along with fellow Obamacare opponent David Kustoff, the GOP congressman from the 8th District, were all represented at the meeting by life-size cardboard cutouts that were "questioned," mocked, and scolded in the course of the meeting.
Another Indivisible host, Emily Fulmer, noted the fact that passage of the pending Senate bill, disingenuously called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) would mean $880 billion in cuts for Medicaid, which in one form or another pays for the medical needs of 60 percent of the American population.
Aftyn Behn of the Tennessee Justice Center presented slides demonstrating, among other things, that BCRA would mean disastrous cutbacks for hospitals and programs designed to curb the current opioid epidemic. Tennessee, she observed, owned the dubious distinction of having the nation's leading rate of hospital closures, "with more rural closures coming, including one in Blount County on Lamar Alexander Parkway." That got the wry laugh it deserved.
Ashley Coffield of Planned Parenthood pointed out that the bill included a provision to "defund" her organization and prohibit women, children, and men from availing themselves of the wide range of "affordable, high quality, and non-judgmental health care" offered by Planned Parenthood.
Allison Donald of the Center for Independent Living and ADAPT, which sees to the needs of the disabled, saw services to these "most vulnerable" about to be disrupted. Physicians Art Sutherland and Tom Gettelfinger pointed out the ongoing hijacking of heath care by self-serving corporations and the outrageous spike in therapeutic drug prices. Essence Jackson of Sistercare proclaimed the obvious: "Health care is not a privilege; it's a human right!" And Virgie Banks of the COPPER Coalition exhorted, "Keep the pressure on!" As she and the others noted, the BCRA will likely come to a vote the week of July 24th.
It would behoove all of us with a concern for the general health and welfare our citizenry to pay heed to what was said on Saturday.