Gov. Phil Bredesen's public health insurance proposal, emphasizing personal responsibility in a system for working people and small businesses, has found some support at Bedford County's delegation to the Legislature.
"I think the overall reaction is positive because we all know the health care insurance system is broken," said state Sen. Jim Tracy, whose insurance agency office is on North Main Street. "I like the point of personal responsibility...
"Health insurance premiums are too high," the Shelbyville Republican said shortly after Bredesen proposed a variable price system that would acknowledge age, weight and habits such as smoking.
"People who take care of themselves should not have to pay extra for those who don't," Bredesen said.
Bredesen's speech to a joint session of the state House and Senate started a week for Tracy and state Rep. Curt Cobb (D-Shelbyville) who are sponsoring bills for the Tennessee Walking Horse industry so artificial insemination is a farm management practice under the law instead of something that requires supervision from a veterinarian.
A Health Department investigation led to fines of $1,000 per month for people who allegedly violated the law administered by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. In a case involving more issues of veterinary medicine, the board ruled against Bonnie Cady, proprietor of the Horse Hub on Montgomery Road. Her lawyer said that case will be appealed.
Lawmakers propose to retroactively dismiss allegations and fines against livestock breeders cited by the health department. Cobb said he and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Gene Davidson (D-Nashville), a farmer and grain elevator operator, have legislation that could be finished in the House this week.
Meanwhile, Tracy said he wants to study Bredesen's proposal to "Cover Tennessee" with health insurance costs paid equally by workers, their employers and the state with premiums averaging $150 per month.
Calling that affordable, Bredesen said coverage would be "portable" for someone working construction in the summer and in a restaurant during the winter without waiting for coverage to start.
"CoverTN will not require high deductibles on the front end," Bredesen said. "Participants will have modest co-pays -- about $25 for a doctor's visit and $10 for a generic prescription -- and can carry CoverTN with them regardless of where they work. Initially, the focus will be on workers earning $24,000 a year or less and small businesses such as restaurants, retail shops and landscaping firms...
"The portability of Cover Tennessee -- that principle that the individual owns the insurance -- is a microcosm of where I believe our nation needs to go," Bredesen said.
Businesses should be hired by the state to run the program, he said, expecting to call for bids in the fall for enrollment starting early next year.
Tracy said, "I've been studying the at-risk pool," a system in which "all insurance companies join in to cover those with the greatest risks."
Bredesen said: "We'll have strong ... requirements to allow only established companies with financial strength and management experience to bid. We'll award not one but two contracts to keep competition on the front burner."
The governor also presented initiatives to focus more on prevention. In one, Bredesen said two of eight high schools in a National Institutes of Health program will be in Tennessee. In another, he said he wants a grant program for schools to help prevent a type of diabetes that afflicts school-age children.
In the grant program, he said, "Some schools may want to work with body mass indexes and how to effectively use them, others may find ways to use their cafeterias as a classroom -- perhaps they can teach that macaroni and cheese, however comforting, is not the state vegetable."
Bredesen discussed such ideas late last month while attending a National Governors Association health conference in Washington, D.C., where he said an April 10 Health Summit is planned for Tennessee.