Healthcare Bill Gets Mixed Support from Tennessee

Only three Tennessee Democrats supported the sweeping healthcare changes that passed the U.S. House of Representatives Sunday night.

Steve Cohen from Memphis, Jim Cooper from Nashville, and Bart Gordon from Murfreesboro stood alone in their support of the bill. Gordon was a last-minute changeover last week. Two other Democrats – Lincoln Davis and John Tanner – resisted changing their votes. Davis says he opposed it because of its unpopularity back at home.

“I listened to my constituents and perhaps better than 85 percent of the calls that came in, e-mails that came in, letters that came in, was opposing this bill. It’s my job to at least look at the district that I represent and look at the district I represent and vote the wishes of the district I represent.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill will reduce the deficit. But retiring Democrat John Tanner says the bill’s nearly trillion dollar price tag was just too much for him to swallow.

“I think that reasonable people can disagree on this, but I’m just a fiscal hawk because I’m so concerned about the financial future.”

Close to one million Tennesseans are uninsured. The House Energy and Commerce Committee says the bill extends insurance to nearly 500,000 residents throughout the state. The committee also estimates the legislation will provide tax credits to more than a million and a half families and one hundred thousand small business in Tennessee.

Some lawmakers who supported the bill say it still isn’t perfect. Nashville’s Jim Cooper says it’s important the legislation extends coverage to hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans. But he says he still wanted the bill to do more to curb ballooning health costs in the U.S.

“The bill does not do enough on cost containment. That can be improved. It was as much as we could get done this year. There are many people back home that want more cost containment, so I encourage them to garner these savings and then let’s do more. But don’t turn back these savings because that would send the wrong message.”

Cooper says he also wanted the reform bill to contain stronger malpractice reform. He says in the future Congress needs to pass legislation that encourages doctors to focus on quality of care.

“There are many things that need to be changed. In general, we still pay doctors more for doing more, whether it helps make you healthy or not. And that’s not a good way to reimburse providers.”

Cooper says the Senate bill was fine as is. He voted against the package of fixes, called reconciliation, that’s now on its way to the Senate.

Capitol News Connection reporter Matt Laslo produced this story.

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