The Tennessee legislature is considering a bill to require health insurance companies pay for oral chemotherapy treatments. The bill was sponsored by Republican Representative Glen Casada of Franklin, but is opposed by Governor Bill Haslam and the insurance industry because it creates a government mandate.
Arguing for the bill, Representative Curry Todd of Collierville informed his fellow legislators that he has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Todd told the state Commerce Committee that he was not making his illness public to garner sympathy for himself, but to put a face to the victims of cancer this bill is designed to help.
The bill requires insurers who pay for intravenous chemotherapy to also cover oral treatments. The administration’s position was presented by Sammie Arnold, a lobbyist for Haslam, who told the committee that “The governor just fundamentally believes that the best way to work these things out is through competition between businesses in the marketplace, and not through government intervention.” Todd responded, “I hope and pray he doesn’t have anybody in his family that has cancer, because I’m opposed to what you just said. This is not a mandate. It’s giving people equal treatment to get a drug other folks haven’t gotten. You send that message back to him – or I will.”
And therein you have the root difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives believe rather naively that corporations will do the right thing if enough people want it, no matter what it does to their bottom line. Maybe it’s not naive. Maybe it’s just paying off their supporters. Liberals believe that left to their own devices, corporations will screw people over, so they must be regulated and overseen. Most of the time, liberals are proven right.
Health insurance is one area where there is little actual competition and even less market control. During the debate in Congress over the Affordable Care Act, all of the companies supplying health insurance to federal employees, even to the members of the House and Senate themselves, felt perfectly comfortable raising their premiums. Federal employees have no control over rising premiums. Neither do any employees of any company. The company chooses the insurance with more interest in their bottom line than in benefits.
Representative Todd went public with something intensely personal for the benefit of the people of Tennessee, and the right wingers who are accusing him of doing so to get some sympathy before he faces a drunk driving charge are about as low as people can get. Todd could have played his illness and his treatment in court if that was his intention. He didn’t need to tell the whole state.