UPPER CUMBERLAND – It quickly became the top news story of the week: when Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan, which would have extended health coverage to low-income residents of the state, failed 7-4 in a special legislative session.
The impact on rural hospitals in the Upper Cumberland remains unclear, although at least one local official says they will stay the course. Cookeville Regional Medical Center CEO Paul Korth issued the following statement to the UCBJ:
“We at Cookeville Regional Medical Center were hopeful that the Insure Tennessee program would be approved by the state legislature,” Korth said. “Unfortunately there are no easy answers for solving the complex challenges that exist today in health care. It is especially challenging when it comes to finding a way to provide health care coverage for the thousands of Tennesseans who have no insurance and no way to pay for health care services.
“Cookeville Regional remains committed to providing care for the citizens of the Upper Cumberland,” he added. “Last year we provided approximately $30 million in charity care and bad debt for patients who could not pay, and we will continue to do what we can to care for uninsured and underinsured patients.”
The UCBJ also requested a comment from Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), a member of the Senate health and welfare committee who voted against the measure, but has yet to receive a response.