TennCare Protest Nears One-Month Mark
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 15, 2005
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--The peaceful sit-in outside the offices of Governor Phil Bredesen showed no sign of weakening nearly a month after it started.
In fact, the protesters from disability, senior, and civil rights groups strengthened their pledge to stay -- despite Bredesen's ban on food and water for the protesters -- until he meets with them publicly and restores cuts he has made to TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.
Medicaid is a health-care program funded jointly by the federal and state governments. Bredesen's budget scales back Tennessee's participation, leaving only the federal minimum requirements. That move amounts to ending health care for 323,000 low-income citizens, many of whom have disabilities.
Bredesen issued a rule on July 11 that the demonstrators could not bring any more food or water into the building. The rule is to be enforced by security guards.
Lisa Abell, a TennCare enrollee and one of the protest's organizers, told Channel 5: "Today we've been told we can't have food and water in here, which is an issue for us that have medical needs such as diabetes, hypoglycemia or are on medication."
The demonstrators, many of whom have been holding vigil in or near the governor's office since June 20, were cautiously optimistic on July 14 when they learned that Bredesen had apparently reversed himself on a provision that would have denied in-home private duty nursing care for about 100 people who use ventilators, beginning August 1.
The next day, however, they condemned the announcement as "propaganda" after they learned that he had only extended the date to the end of this year. The move means that the ventilator users would be forced into nursing homes -- most likely outside the state.
The advocates claim that Tennessee spends $149 on institutions for every one dollar it spends on home and community alternatives. The groups blame the nursing home industry for lobbying to keep money going to those facilities, while blocking efforts to increase funding for community-based supports.
They also claim that the TennCare cuts violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing people into nursing homes and other institutions.
"It's been an endurance test," said Abell. "We have been passing the leadership responsibilities around between the volunteers, some have no experience with political protest ever in their lives."
"It has been an adventure but also a way for people to show their power. We have gotten some great ideas from the people."
"DAY TWENTY: Governors Office Occupation Going Strong Starting Weekend Three" (Memphis Center for Independent Living)
"DAY TWENTY-ONE: Long Sunday Steadfastness of the Sit-in" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-TWO: TennCare Enrollees Unfaltering Going Into Week Four" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-THREE: No Food or Water" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-FOUR: Demonstration at Tennessee Governor's Office Reaches for a Record" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-FIVE: Bredesen Meets One Demand" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-SIX: Bredesens Pledge to Vent Users is Hollow" (MCIL)
"Tennessee Govs Choice: Death or Life Imprisonment?" (MCIL)
"Memphis ADAPT and the Governor" (Tri County Patriots for Independent Living)