Monday, April 24, 2006

Bredeson's Health Care Proposal Lacking Specifics

Republican lawmakers grilled Tennessee state finance director Dave Getz today over the lack of specifics regarding funding for Governor Phil Bredeson's Cover Tennessee health care insurance proposal. While Bredeson has suggested that TennCare reserves should be sufficient to cover the first three years of the program, he has left open the question of how the program would be funded beyond that point.

Getz, one of the more able members of Bredeson's cabinet, was in the difficult position of facing a legislative panel for the purpose of defending a proposal that continues to lack detail. Even so, his answers were disconcerting. Getz suggested, according to the report, that after three years legislators could either increase cigarette taxes, adjust budget priorities, or kill the program. If the Bredeson administration should have learned anything in recent years, it is that killing a health care entitlement creates serious financial, legal, and health care issues for government and the would be beneficiaries. Adjusting budget priorities would likely mean robbing money from other big ticket items, primarily education. Increasing cigarette taxes amounts to an added tax on the poor and leaves the state in the position of having another reason for hoping that more people continue to smoke in order to increase state revenues commensurate with health care costs that tend to grow at unpredictable rates.

The more cynical among us might also note that funding the program for three years will mean that it will be starting to become insolvent at the time that Bredeson will be leaving his office, and the problems he will have created, to someone else.

Bredeson's health care proposal is receiving scrutiny and praise across the nation, but there is still a great deal to be worked out.


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