Dean: No Medicaid expansion a 'disaster' for Tennessee

Hank Hayes • May 23, 2018 at 9:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Tennessee lawmakers’ inability to expand TennCare  — the state’s Medicaid program — has been a “disaster” for the state, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean said Wednesday during a stop at the Model City Events Center.

“We’ve lost $4 billion,” Dean, former Nashville mayor, said of the federal funds not coming to Tennessee during an informal meeting with Professionals Engaged in Advancing Kingsport. “We’ve had 10 hospitals close. I think there are real serious issues about general access to health care, and the fact we don’t get our fair share of Medicaid money … Governor Haslam was in favor of Medicaid expansion and the legislature wouldn’t let it move forward.”

Dean also responded to Democratic gubernatorial opponent Craig Fitzhugh and the Tennessee Republican Party taking him to task for his handling of federal funds following the 2010 Nashville flood.

A Nashville television station reported $7.4 million in federal disaster relief was used by Dean for "riverfront development," including building an amphitheater.

Dean called the report inaccurate.

“I think the flood is one of the great stories about Nashville and the way the city responded and how well we got back on our feet,” he noted. “I obviously took steps to make sure we did flood mitigation and other things. It’s all politics.”

Dean also addressed these questions:

What’s going to be your approach to economic development?

“If you look at Tennessee, there are parts of the state doing well and parts struggling. We need to concentrate our economic development abilities on the areas that need help. We need things like rural broadband.”

How to do you encourage more young people to get involved in politics?

“Number one, people respond to issues where they are affected. If there are things in your community or at the state level in Nashville you think need to change, then start talking about those. Be involved in campaigns, for whomever. It’s always good to see how it actually works.”

What should local governments do when they are looking at losing funding from the Hall Income Tax?

“If the state keeps requiring more and more things from local government, they ought to be offered suggestions on how they are going to pay for it. Local governments have to make decisions about balancing budgets.”

What are your chances to win in the November general election if you win in the Democrat Primary?

“Very good. I’m pretty convinced people want a more moderate, pragmatic governor who’s not going to be a political extremist and focus on the issues that really matter to people. They want somebody to work on education and creating jobs … I certainly have that experience.

“The big issues going forward are public education … I think we need to be paying our teachers more … teachers are moving from district to district getting $10,000 more here and there or going to Georgia or getting out of the profession altogether and going to the private sector.”