Sick Irony

January 8th, 2015

You know you’re going to have to take it … a zillion dollars of your own money being given back to you, plus the money of a lot of other people, all to help your own people who need the help the most … hard-working people with no other resource … but you just can’t stand the guy who’s giving it to you.

So, how do you take the money without looking like you took a dime … make the whole thing look like your idea? How long will it take to figure out how to do that … how long will all those people have to wait?

Better figure on at least two years.

As published in The Daily News, January 9, 2015, and in The Memphis News, January 10-16, 2015



Insure Tennessee reminds me of Lorne Greene, David Letterman and a can of Alpo.

You remember Lorne, don’t you? Dad on Bonanza? In an old commercial for Alpo, he made his ancient dog fetch a stick to get fed. As she struggled back with the stick in her gray jaws, Lorne suggested that her longevity was due to Alpo - dog food, he said, “without a speck of cereal.”

I remember a very young David Letterman commenting on that commercial. “That dog’s like 100 in dog years,” he said. “That’s like telling your grandmother, ‘Hey, Granny, you want dinner, go fetch.’ And another thing, I don’t know about your dog, but mine spends his days sniffing other dogs’ butts and drinking out of the toilet. I don’t think he’s going to sweat a speck of cereal.”

Insure Tennessee is what Governor Haslam is calling his proposed expansion of Medicaid - an expansion around 200,000 working and uninsured Tennesseans have been waiting for in emergency rooms for two years. Like that commercial, it’s a healthcare proposal full of sick irony, and Haslam is like Greene, an actor with a script.

People largely living in food deserts and working two or three jobs to make ends meet will be required to eat more nutritiously and to find time to exercise in order to qualify for Medicaid – fresh veggies and hot yoga are the hard sticks they’ll have to fetch to get the help their hard lives need. Politicians who profess to hate bureaucracy are adding private market hoops to jump through and public barriers to jump over so they can make them unique obstacles to Tennessee – you know – so it doesn’t look a speck like Obamacare.

Haslam gave it a Tennessee name so he could get a states rights slap on the back for our independence and political camouflage from letting the federal government pay for every penny of it. We did this so well with TennCare – Tennessee’s version of Medicaid with 65% federal funding  – that we’re the only state that requires year-to-year approval for critical hospital support, leaving hospitals in Tennessee in a state of budget arrest annually.

And he’s proposing Insure Tennessee as a two-year trial, coincidentally coinciding with when one man’s term of office as president ends – the one man Tennessee gave up tens of millions of dollars and put the health and very lives of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans at risk to thwart.

Of course, the hospitals are behind any expansion – because so many of their services, if not the hospitals themselves, are already critical and likely terminal without it. Of course, we have to pass it – because far too many working Tennesseans have to pass on their families’ health.

Taking the money is, finally, a good thing, but waiting two years to do it at the expense of the least among us is as bad as petty, provincial, polarized politics get.

I’m a Memphian, and, hopefully, a lot more Memphians are about to get health insurance.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

 If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



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