TENN DOESN'T CARE. It can rarely be said enough, but Tennessee governor and occasional media darling Phil Bredesen is a pretty loathsome sort of Democrat. Having dismantled and tossed 225,000 people off of TennCare -- which provided serious health insurance for the poor, sick, and young -- he's replacing the laudable progam with a cheap rip-off. Cover Tennessee, Bredesen's new idea, will offer insurance to 185,000 folks (I'm still waiting on an explanation for the missing 40,000), but not the ones covered by TennCare. These will be richer, healthier applicants; people who could buy into private insurance but want a cheaper, barebones option. Explaining it, Bredesen boasted that "we have not set up an entitlement program, we can set limits on the number of people who can enroll, we can modify the benefits if we need to, we can change the eligibility requirements, we can change the law.� What a relief, the last thing this country needs its Democratic governors to support are entitlement health insurance programs that offer the needy defined benefits and open rolls.
To give you an idea who this program will cover, last year's cuts to TennCare added up to $1.7 billion; Cover Tennessee, in total, will cost $100 million. That's not to say it's a bad initiative -- indeed, it sounds like it's got some merit. But only as an addition to TennCare or something similar, not as a replacement. Bredesen, here, has thrown those in need onto the street but sought to win plaudits and redemption by extending coverage to less desperate, costly segments of society. Given a patient with pneumonia, he's opted instead to treat a kid with a cold. It's a coward's maneuver, and it will not solve his state's problems. The sick and the poor, once crossed, don't go away. They just vote for your opponent come the primaries.