As the health care reform debate proceeds, one battleground is what to make of the results in states like Maine and Tennessee, where pioneering efforts to expand coverage have encountered difficulties. Today’s New York Times has a thorough front-page article on Maine Governor John Baldacci’s (D) efforts to revamp the Dirigo health plan, which was designed to cover the state’s 130,000 uninsured citizens by 2009 but so far has signed up only 18,800 Mainers. And last week, Families USA published the stories of over three dozen Tennesseans who saw their TennCare benefits cut after Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) pushed through reductions in the program in 2005. “The loss of TennCare benefits meant that many people missed needed care and medicines, making their illnesses and other health problems worse. For others, losing TennCare literally — and unnecessarily — cost them their lives,” Families USA executive director Ron Pollack writes.
Bredesen speaks extensively about his decisions on TennCare in an interview with Alan Weil, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, which Health Affairs will publish May 22 on our Web site. On April 25, 2006, Health Affairs published an interview with Gordon Bonnyman, the executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, who vigorously opposed Bredesen on the 2005 TennCare cutbacks.