Shall thou have health insurance?
That was the big topic of discussion Thursday afternoon when state Sen. Janice Bowling came to McMinnville for a town hall meeting. Sen. Bowling was on the committee that killed Gov. Bill Haslam's expanded health plan called Insure Tennessee.
Most people in attendance voiced their approval for expanded healthcare and were eager to hear Bowling's reasons for voting against the plan.
"No one in the United States should be denied care because they can't afford it," said Dr. Wally Bigbee. "Please be a leader for the people and see Insure Tennessee is made into law."
Bowling was asked directly by high school teacher Tommy Davis, "Explain to me the downside of more people having insurance."
She responded, "Our healthcare delivery system has been hailed as one of the best in the world."
A few minutes later in further explaining her vote against Insure Tennessee, Bowling referred to a recommendation made by Vanderbilt professor James Blumstein, an authority of healthcare policy.
"According to professor Blumstein, it would overload our already fragile delivery system," said Bowling. "Professor Blumstein has also said it is not legally defensible, it would leave us vulnerable, it's just one step above talking points, and it would jeopardize the health insurance for the 1.3 million who are traditional Medicaid recipients."
When asked if two rural hospitals that have recently been closed in Tennessee could have stayed open if Insure Tennessee was approved by the General Assembly, Bowling said the closings were not related to the failed legislation.
"This was touted as a way to save rural hospitals, but did you know that 85 percent of the money was to go to the teaching hospitals in Memphis, Knoxville, Nashville and upper East Tennessee," said Bowling.
Bowling was asked why Tennessee lawmakers seem to have such a distrust for the federal government and keep throwing up roadblocks when other states are getting on board with expanded healthcare.
Bowling said it's up to lawmakers to be cautious with spending programs because, "The state and federal government don't have money that they don't take from the people."
When Bowling compared expanded healthcare to socialism, Dr. Bigbee responded, "We still drive on roads and we don't call that socialism."
Bowling also said expanded healthcare would be sending money to Washington "in almost Ponzi fashion."
Bowling was asked about legislation that allows teachers who are certified to carry guns being able to carry them in a classroom. Davis said as a teacher at WCHS, this is not popular among students.
"I've been in the classroom for 17 years," said Davis. "I did a survey and found the average student has 7.5 guns in their home. This was everywhere to some students with over 40 to some students with zero, but the average was 7.5 guns. And 85 percent of those students said they would feel uncomfortable with their teacher carrying a gun. I don't see any reason for it if it's going to be a detriment to the educational environment."
Bowling said 82 percent of all mass murders occur in places that are gun free and that criminals don't obey laws. She said the legislation has been well vetted and she supports teachers carrying guns if they are properly training, it's supported by the local education association, and the teacher is willing to carry the gun.