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Tennessee Sit-In Passes One-Month Mark
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2005

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE--Disability, senior, and civil rights advocates this week passed the one-month mark in their peaceful protest outside the office of Governor Phil Bredesen.

"We will be here as long as it takes," said Randy Alexander of the disability rights group ADAPT.

The protesters have gathered in the hall outside Bredesen's office since June 20, demanding he meet with them publicly and restore 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. His cuts amounts to ending health care for 323,000 low-income citizens, many of whom have disabilities.

Notices went out earlier this month to TennCare enrollees, letting them know whether they will lose benefits and instructing them on how to file appeals. TennCare officials have already received 15,000 appeals from people who face losing their coverage.

Disability rights advocates from ADAPT and the Memphis Center for Independent Living are particularly angered over Bredesen's decision to force about 100 ventilator users to be moved into nursing homes from their homes in the community. A statement from Bredesen's office last week appeared to restore ventilator coverage, but advocates later learned that the cuts were only being delayed until the end of the year.

Candlelight vigils have been organized each night outside the building after it is locked.

The protesters introduced a new strategy this week, focusing on the economic impact of Bredesen's budget. They noted that Tennessee has 6,458 individuals who are currently housed in nursing homes but that wish to live independently.

"Providing these citizens with services in the community typically costs one-third of the cost of institutionalization," the advocates explained in a statement published on the MCIL website. "That translates into a savings to the state of over $150 million. If Tennessee cut its nursing home population in half, the savings could be $2.6 billion."

Restoring the cuts could also save 14,500 Tennessee jobs, the advocates said.

"DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: Protest Expands with Bredesen's Dishonesty" (Memphis Center for Independent Living)
"DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: Bredesen's Plan Costly to Tennessee" (MCIL)
"DAY TWENTY-NINE: 'Shame on Bredesen.'" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY: Bredesen Plan Bloated With Institutional Inefficiency" (MCIL)
"Day THIRTY-ONE: Activists remain determined for a public accounting by Governor Bredesen" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-TWO: Turning Up The Heat" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-THREE: Six lies of Governor Bredesen, Part One" (MCIL)


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