Insurance Indignation: Crowe comes under fire at health care town hall meeting
Published 12:02 am Thursday, May 21, 2015
At a town hall meeting to help educate the public and drum up support for a proposal to extend Tennessee’s health care coverage to more low-income residents, one local lawmaker came under fire for not initially voting for the plan.
The Tennessee Health Care Campaign hosted the special town hall meeting Wednesday evening at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City. The panelists for the meeting included Tony Garr of THCC; Katie Alexander, a client advocate with the Tennessee Justice Center; Dr. Patrick Macmillan, a practicing physician and professor at East Tennessee State Univeristy’s College of Medicine; Silas Tolan, director of ETSU’s community clinics, Rev. Jane Taylor, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Johnson City; Johnson City Mayor Dr. Ralph Van Brocklin; State Sen. Rusty Crowe and State Rep. John Holsclaw.
Many of the panelists expressed their views on why the Tennessee Legislature needs to pass Insure Tennessee, but during his comments and the following question and answer session Crowe drew criticism for his initial vote against the plan.
Crowe serves as chairman of the Senate Health Committee which took up the Insure Tennessee proposal during a specially called legislative session in February. The proposal was defeated during the special session with seven of the nine committee members – including Crowe – voting against it.
During the regular session, the plan was once again on the table, this time passing the Health Committee but failing in the Commerce Committee. Crowe voted in favor of the plan when it came back through his committee.
During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Crowe was asked why he failed to vote in favor of the plan during the first go around, after he had previously voiced his support for the plan and promised to vote for it.
“It came up prematurely,” Crowe said. “There was nothing that showed the federal government, or even the state, would honor the agreement. There was nothing in writing.”
The Legislature found itself in a “Catch 22 situation,” Crowe said. In order for the state to get an agreement in writing from the federal government, the proposal had to be sent to them for approval. But, he said, Haslam could not submit the plan until it was approved by the Legislature, who was requesting something in writing from the federal government before it approved the plan.
Crowe also responded to accusations that he brought the proposal back before the Senate Health committee only after criticism and pressure forced him to do so.
“There was no pressure,” Crowe said. “Rusty Crowe decided to bring that back to my committee.”
“I’m proud it passed,” he added. “We worked hard to bring it back.”
During his comments, Crowe was heckled with critical remarks and, at times, laughter could be heard from some among the more than 100 people in attendance.
Several of the other panel members expressed their support for the plan, calling it the right thing to do for Tennesseeans.
“My hope and dream is that everyone has access to good health care, because it’s just the right thing to do,” Macmillan said. “One of the things I’ve noticed is that politicians have health insurance. Why don’t the working people in Tennessee have health insurance too?”
Taylor addressed the proposal from a moral and social justice perspective.
“Health care is unaffordable for the average working person in Tennessee,” she said. “God gave us stewardship over all the people He loves.”
Helping to provide for those less fortunate is a Christian value and our leaders should be reminded of that, Taylor said.
“Social injustice occurs when not all people are treated with equal moral concern,” she said.