Letter to the Editor: Expand Medicaid to save lives during pandemic

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To the editor: 

Before this global pandemic, more than 600,000 Tennesseans were without health insurance according to the Census Bureau. After the staggering job losses of the past three weeks, these numbers will explode.  

Added to Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation rate of rural hospital closures, this is a setup for a very deadly near future. 

The Tennessee General Assembly has the power to drastically reduce the number of uninsured and underinsured residents while reversing the trend of hospital closures. All it takes is joining 37 other states in expanding Medicaid, giving us billions of federal dollars to use in caring for Tennesseans. 

There is a Republican bill in the House for this purpose, but our Republican-controlled legislature does not support it. As candidates for state House in Districts 61, 63, and 65 in Williamson County, we support expanding Medicaid immediately to protect our people, our economy and our future. More than 60% of Tennesseans support the same thing. We’re all in this together, and we know that taking care of each other is the best way out. 

People who cannot get sufficient healthcare are more likely to get sick. This includes service workers who are now essential to our way of life but who do not have healthcare through their jobs. It includes workers who cannot afford to use their insurance and must keep working through this pandemic to earn enough for food and bills. It includes residents of rural areas that have been slower to respond with public health measures like school closures and social distancing.

These same at-risk people are more likely to spread the deadly virus. Essential or struggling workers are showing up to work while the rest of us stay home or work remotely. These are the people working in our food supply chain, transportation and delivery, and utility/maintenance work. Those laborers handle the food we eat or items we bring into our households. These necessary activities can bring the virus into our homes if the workers have it.

Needless to say, uninsured and underinsured Tennesseans have a harder time getting healthcare, if they can see a doctor at all. 

Rural residents are often far from hospitals, like the residents of Decatur County, whose Decatur County General Hospital will close April 15. This leads to more complications, more deaths and generally worse outcomes.

Our opponents — state Reps. Brandon Ogles, Glen Casada and Sam Whitson — are against “Obama-era” health-care reforms, which includes Medicaid expansion. Choosing rigid, partisan ideology over practical action will cost Tennesseans their lives during this crisis.  

Representatives, do you support saving lives in Tennessee with the straightforward, fast and popular approach in HB2529? 

Contact your representatives and urge them to support HB2529 to expand Medicaid immediately. 

Our fellow Tennesseans’ lives depend on it. 

Sam Bledsoe, District 61 

Elizabeth Madeira, District 63 

Jenn Foley, District 65 

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