Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro told the Tennessean in a lengthy Q&A that Insure Tennessee is the most important policy decision facing our state.
"I don't think you can sit on the sidelines on this one and claim to be leading. For most people throughout my district and throughout the state, this is a no-brainer. We have an opportunity to insure 280,000 people, pump over $1 billion into Tennessee's economy, protect hospitals and jobs, and do all that without an additional penny of state taxes. This will continue to be a top priority, and won't stop being a priority until lawmakers move past politics and find a solution.
"I understand that some people oppose the Affordable Care Act and want to see this federal law fail. But as long as it is the law of the land, we have to do what's best for Tennessee. The governor and Republican sponsors disagree with the Affordable Care Act, but crafted this plan to deal with the reality facing our state. Hospitals are facing impossible budgets and could close, and too many people are working but still can't afford insurance. If Insure Tennessee isn't the way to go, I'd love to hear other ideas. But none of the opponents have proposed a viable alternative. It's unacceptable to do nothing.
"There are some legislators who just hope this issue will go away. But I have been surprised by the number of Republicans both inside and outside of the capitol who understand this is the right thing to do. If a vote on the floor were held today, I think Insure Tennessee would pass. If the legislature voted by secret ballot, it would probably pass two-to-one. There are a great many legislators who want an opportunity to vote on Insure Tennessee.
"Insure Tennessee hasn't stumbled because of policy disagreements. The problem is the process — and the politics. The legislature has a job to do, and we should either bring Insure Tennessee to the floor or present an alternative plan. Unfortunately, the legislature has chosen to do nothing but stand in the way. This issue won't go away. The question isn't whether we're going to eventually move past the politics, but how long we will delay making a common-sense decision for Tennessee.
"This has to be a bipartisan effort. After the special session, I wanted to make sure Insure Tennessee made its way back onto the agenda, but it had a better chance of passage with the sponsorship and support of Republicans like Sens. Richard Briggs, Becky Massey and Doug Overbey, who should be commended for their courageous efforts. Given the overwhelming benefits of this plan, I am confident that both Democrats and Republicans who support it would earn the gratitude of their constituents.
"I regret that we couldn't get more done for you this year, but don't lose hope and don't give up the fight. It's going to take more people getting engaged, registering to vote, and holding their legislators accountable if we're going to get this done."