Protesters Toll Bells Across Tennessee Over Health Care
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 1, 2005
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE -- On Monday, about 97,000 people who were receiving TennCare lost their drug coverage, while another 400,000 faced a limit on their drug benefits. The state also stands ready to cut as many as 290,000 additional TennCare recipients from the Medicaid portion of the health care program.
"This is the single largest cutback of public health care, not just in the state, but in the history of this country," said Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, during a July 28 press conference.
Civil, senior and disability rights advocates have been holed up inside the State Capitol building, and just outside Governor Phil Bredesen's office since June 20, demanding he meet with them publicly and restore cuts he has made to TennCare. Bredesen has eliminated much of Tennessee's contribution to the federal-state funded Medicaid health-care program, leading to the end of health care for hundreds of thousands of low-income citizens, many of whom have disabilities.
On July 28, protesters set up a church bell in Nashville's Legislative Plaza and started tolling it every 4 seconds -- each toll signifying 10 people who are losing some or all of their health care benefits -- through Sunday night. Organizers arranged for bells to be tolled in every county across Tennessee.
The demonstrators hope that their efforts will force lawmakers to arrange a special session to address the health care problem.
"The pressure is working," said protester Pam Beziat. "I think the governor is caught in a hard place."
In the meantime, the protesters have not been allowed to have food or water delivered to them inside the Capitol building, following a two-week-old rule by the State Capitol Commission.
"DAY THIRTY-FOUR: Six lies of Governor Bredesen, Part Two" (Memphis Center for Independent Living)
"DAY THIRTY-FIVE: Photos from Al Levenson" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-SIX: Call for a Special TennCare Legislative Session" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-SEVEN: Photos from the Nashville Peace and Justice Center" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-EIGHT: Bredesen passes pork to friends" (MCIL)
"DAY THIRTY-NINE: The Bell Tolls" (MCIL)
"DAY FORTY: The Bell Tolls in Federal Court" (MCIL)
"State cracks down on protestor meals" (Nashville City Paper)
"Consider if Jesus would join TennCare protesters" (Nashville Tennessean)
"TennCare supporters ring bell to oppose cuts in benefits" (Maryville Daily Times)
"TennCare activists escalate protests" (Commercial Appeal)