Candace Reed, the Democrat challenger for state House District 46, which includes part of Wilson County, is critical of her opponent, Rep. Mark Pody’s proposed legislation to change health insurance laws in Tennessee.
But Pody, R-Lebanon, said the law he sponsored and continues to support would save the state money and offer more local control over health insurance.
Reed said she plans to celebrate the 50th birthday of Medicare when the 109th General Assembly convenes in 2015 with a pledge to protect it for the state’s senior citizens.
“Because of Medicare, millions of Americans have been able to live longer, healthier lives without the fear of crushing debt in their twilight years,” said Reed. “As state representative, I will always vote to protect Medicare for senior citizens and future generations – not force our parents and grandparents onto TennCare, as Rep. Pody wants to do.”
She pointed to bills Pody sponsored in 2012 and 2013. Reed said according to the non-partisan Fiscal Review Committee, the legislation would have increased Tennessee’s budget by more than $11 billion while putting the health care of more than 1.1 million of Tennessee’s senior citizens under the control of TennCare, which has recently received criticism for its failures to assist TennCare enrollees.
“We don’t need to be playing politics with the lives of parents and grandparents, and if elected state representative, I never will,” said Reed.
But Pody said those claims simply aren’t accurate.
“It wouldn’t cost Tennessee any more,” he said. “What it would do is allow us to do it cheaper than the federal government.”
Pody said the bill he backed would allow the more than $11 billion Tennessee receives for health insurance to still come to the state, but in the form of a block grant to be used as state officials dictate. But he said it would be used for health insurance.
“There are several states that are saying they would like to go to Congress and ask for this block grant,” Pody said. “If Congress would approve that, it would come back to Tennessee. At that point, we would be able to see what we want to do with that money. It doesn’t have to touch Medicare.
“This would be just the first step in going to Congress to see if we can do this.
“If you want to examine how health insurance is being spent in Tennessee, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Pody said the last time he introduced the bill was in 2013 when it died in conference committee. He said it was one of the last bills introduced, and when several House Republicans left early, he couldn’t garner enough support to get it out of committee.
“I think government is best run as local as it can,” Pody said. “That bill got defeated, but I don’t back away from it at all. Anytime we can take and run things locally than at the federal level, I’m all for exploring those options.”
Reed is a teacher of eight years in Wilson County and challenged Pody to represent District 46 in the state House. Each unopposed in their respective primaries in August, voters will decide between Reed and Pody in the Nov. 4 state general election.