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A fruitless promise of help

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"Behold, you are relying on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him." (Isaiah 36:6)

This observation by an ancient Assyrian officer might well be applied to Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. Haslam's instructions to those who would apply for TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid, are so bald I can print them in full here:

You must apply for TennCare through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Apply online at www.healthcare.gov. Paper applications are available at here.Or you can call them at 1-800-318-2596. They can mail an application to you or help you apply online .If you do not have a computer and/or internet access you can apply at a kiosk at your local DHS office. Click here for DHS locations.

An announcement dated 12/13/13 spells out a few further details. If you want to apply for TennCare CHOICES (not part of Medicaid) or want to change any of your enrollment information, call the NEW service center, Tennessee Health Connection. The phone number is 1-855-259-0701, and it's free, Monday through Saturday, 7AM to 7PM. The announcement does not say where this wondrous center is, so you can't go there and talk to anybody face to face.

Meanwhile, if you need to apply for Medicaid coverage, you use the very computer software Haslam and just about everybody else in the state has declared unworkable. If you don't have your own computer or access to one, you can go to the Department of Human Services and use one of the four (4) computer kiosks. These provisions are the Voter ID Law on steroids, except you aren't assured of getting what you need after you jump through the hoops.

For those in Metropolitan Nashville, your Public Library stands ready to help. They are having Affordable Care Act Enrollment Sessions at a number of branches this month and next. Consult the link or your local library for time and place. They will probably provide paper copies of the lengthy paper application for a small charge.

What the governor and his bureaucracy are conveniently ignoring is that most of those who need TennCare neither understand a computer system like healthcare.gov nor the general requirements of health insurance. Public ignorance of the principles of healthcare insurance is the main reason insurance companies have gotten by for so long with the practices newly forbidden by the ACA.

When it comes to helping his people, our governor is definitely a 'broken reed of a staff'.

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