Friday, January 9, 2009

Why certifying TennCare recipients annually is bad

On the surface, the restraining order lifted yesterday on what is called the Daniels' decision concerning TennCare being allowed to re-certify recipients each year sounds fine.

But let me tell you from personal experience about the re-certification and certification process concerning benefits if you are either poor, sick, disabled or a combination of the three.

I came down with terminal leukemia in the fall of 2005. Since I was part of a full-time job and thanks to E.J. Mitchell and Sandra Roberts, I continued being paid based on my leave time, sick leave and short-term disability. But the human resources department screwed it all up, and Mitchell had to read it the riot act. So there's the first problem in dealing with an uncaring, incompetent bureaucracy.

I worked from my hospital bed with a laptop until Aetna said I could no longer work from my bed in June 2006. I wrote 16 columns with terminal cancer until that point.

A few weeks later, I almost died over 12 days in Vanderbilt Medical Center. I was so pale that I looked immediately ready for the casket. The doctors did not know what else to do. With leukemia, you go down fast. But by the grace of God and the intervention of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I am alive today. And now I get to resume my professional career. God is great, and He hears the cry of his people.

I still was weak after getting out of the hospital. It took me 10 minutes to walk 20 steps up stairs. Still, I ran my mother's estate and care from my back and my own finances.

Filing for Social Security benefits(and designation as disabled) was a nightmare. Even though I had leukemia, I was twice turned down for benefits and designated as disabled. I prepared to file for bankruptcy. The bureaucracy of the Social Security Administration is meant to discourage people to get what is due them to survive. Many people simply give up after being denied the first time. You can hire an attorney to get the benefits, but the attorney requires a large share of the lump sum money you get.

Then there is TennCare. I am not under it, thank goodness. I have never seen a more incompetent institution -- other than The Tennessean -- in my life. Its single goal is to get as many recipients off TennCare rolls as possible. It is a fiscal equation, not a human one.

Like me on my deathbed with leukemia, many -- and we're speaking thousands -- are going to be in no shape to fill out a lot of paperwork and then fight unnecessary denials by bureaucratic staff trained to do. Remember John Gresham's movie based on the family in Memphis and Matt Damon who played the attorney in the movie.

So we face the certainty of thousands of Tennesseans losing their lives, because they cannot fill out all the paperwork and fight the incompetent bureaucracy after denial.

Two days before my leukemia diagnosis, I dragged myself down to Lawrenceburg and a clinic there to investigate eight deaths by the governor's 2005 and unnecessary TennCare cuts involving prescription care. I was already two months into a debilitating bout of pneumonia.

In all, I came across 20 cases of deaths from Bredesen' cuts. So across the state, you'd have to believe there twice that number of deaths.

Now, with losing all health care not just prescription drug, we're looking at deaths in the thousands.

Why should you care if you're not on TennCare? Because many of these people are going to go hospital emergency rooms for at last gasp at life when it is too late and the cost of the care is the highest. And you will have to pay for this more expensive care in your taxes, or in an increased cost for your care so the hospital will survive financially.

So even if you simply want to save money in the operation of government, then you had better get your lawmakers to force TennCare to back of yearly reviewal.

Or you'll pay the price, along with thousands who will lose their very lives.

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