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Bredesen ‘indicted’ on TennCare disaster

  • Written by Dr. Sybill C. Mitchell
A trial of consensus was heard this week charging Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen of ignoring the cries of poor and chronically ill constituents, TennCare recipients... A trial of consensus was heard this week charging Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen of ignoring the cries of poor and chronically ill constituents, TennCare recipients.

And after being weighed in the balance of moral responsibility and compassionate decision-making, he was found guilty as charged by SCLC supporters and the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association.

His penalty? Thousands of democratic voters will be urged to cross party lines and vote for Bredesen’s Republican opponent, Tennessee Sen. Jim Bryson, the event’s headliner.

“When we learned that Gov. Bredesen would be doing away with TennCare altogether, we fought to at least maintain healthcare for the 67,000 of our neediest citizens on the TennCare roles,” said Senator Bryson of Franklin Tennesse in the mid-state region.

“And we worked with the director and financial officer of TennCare,” Bryson said. “We drafted a bill with hopes of ensuring proper healthcare for the least among us.

“And in this measure, we named several of the chronic diseases and conditions which affect the sickest of Tennessee citizens. Among these specified were: diabetes, organ transplant recipients, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  People living with any of these are considered ‘uninsurable’ because of their pre-existing condition,” Bryson declared.

Unfortunately, the bill never reached the Senate floor; this legislation died in the committee of its origin.

Bryson called the governor’s management of the TennCare issue “reckless and irresponsible.”

“When I am elected, I will work for the betterment of all of Tennessee’s citizens,” he promised. “As public servants entrusted with the well-being of our constituents, we must determine to do what is good and what is right. God calls us to truly be servants of the people.”

More than 300 of the state’s most prominent Baptist ministers and community leaders answered Tuesday’s call to action by the Rev. Dwight Mongomery and the Memphis chapter Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in taking down the governor who “disenfranchised 200,000 Tennesseans of Tennessee-funded healthcare,” according to Rev. Dwight Mongomery.

The momentous affair was set at the Greater Mt. Moriah Beautiful Garden banquet hall, a structure belonging to Mt. Moriah Baptist Church where the Rev. J.L. Payne and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in South Memphis.

“We want to be clear about what our position is in this upcoming gubernatorial election,” said Rev. Montgomery. “We must be compelled - not to support a candidate of any particular party - but to support one standing for righteousness and compassion.”

Bryson, who headlined the event,  told the supportive luncheon gathering that he will work to make home healthcare more accessible to seniors.

“Most of our elderly citizens don’t want to leave their homes and go into a nursing home,” Bryson told the audience. “They want to maintain some degree of independent living, and we need to make some provision to help them live a dignified quality of life right there in their homes.”

Bryson told luncheon attendees that at the height of TennCare’s crisis, the program costs had climbed to $100 million. But Gov. Bredesen, by abolishing the state-funded project, created a surplus of more than $300 million.

“He directed $100 million into Tennessee’s Rainy Day Fund,” said Bryson. “And that fund is now at the highest dollar amount it has ever been. And a good percentage of that money came out of TennCare.”

Bredesen’s handling of TennCare did not reflect  good, sound moral judgment, said Bryson, especially in light of all the state’s money presently being held in reserve as surplus revenue.

Other SCLC supporters in the effort to elect Bryson concurred with his assessment of TennCare.

Dr. George Flynn, a Memphis medical doctor took the podium to relay his own heartbreaking TennCare story.

“I had a patient who was cut off of TennCare, and she could not get into a hospital,” said Dr. Flynn. “I continued to treat her as an outpatient, but she was suffering with cancer. This woman died yesterday. ‘Daisy’ was her name. And she died a painful and agonizing death with this cancer.”

A collective groan rose from the audience. Then silence.

“There are places to cut the state’s budget, and the state budget should be cut,” said Dr. Flynn, in an impassioned plea. “But Tenn Care is not one of those places,” above an enthusiastic burst of shouts and applause.

WLOK radio station owner, Art Gilliam, also joined his voice with this SCLC effort.

“We’ve all witnessed the high crime rates among youth,” said Gilliam. “But these young people act out a sense of hopelessness and despair. We must give them hope. And we will be donating air time to the efforts of SCLC.

WLOK will be working with Rev. Montgomery to help kids understand that there is a better way to live.”

Bryson also cited education and re-commitment to a traditional value system as other major focal points of his campaign platform.

“We’re setting a goal in education,” he declared. “And we want to work toward the goal that every student graduate from high school. If we can put a man on the moon in the 20th century, we can help every student graduate in the 21st century.”

The roar of applause told Bryson he had struck a chord with the  predominantly African-American and democratic audience.

“We must move back to good, strong values in our government and in the society we are living,” he said. “Every civilization that has ever crumbled was preceded in its destruction by the breakdown of wholesome, sound values. And we must return to Christian and family values.”

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