​Healthcare Reform Panel

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

A group of concerned Franklin County residents met on Monday night for a panel on healthcare reform sponsored by Sewanee Organize and Act.
The panel was organized to provide a space for citizens to air their concerns and to learn from industry professionals about how, if passed, the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would affect medical practices and their patients. In May of this year, the House of Representatives passed the proposed repeal. The vote went to the Senate earlier this week.
The panel was organized and moderated by Sandra Rice, a certified nurse practitioner on oncology and family practice. Rice has worked with the Tennessee Justice Center on different things, and she said it was a Justice Center panel from June that planted the seed in her mind to organize a panel in Franklin County.
“It was just fantastic, and I learned so much. I thought we needed to do a panel like that one in rural Tennessee. We would be really affected by any of the changes with healthcare and the ACA, so I said, ‘Let’s do this,’” said Rice. “The purpose of the panel was to be a public hearing, to educate and allow citizens to provide input to the proposed legislation.
On the panel were Garrett Adams, founder and director of the Beersheba Springs clinic; Amy Evans from Sewanee Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine; Nancy Silvertooth, a certified specialist in Medicaid and ACA sign-up and Bill Zechman, an insurance agent who worked with the ACA when Humana was in the market in Tennessee.
For Sid Brown, president of Sewanee Organize and Act, supporting the ACA is personal.
“It’s about Medicaid. It’s about people who are physically and mentally challenged being supported. It’s about me wanting to support a government that will help people who are challenged,” she said. “Myself, I had a brother who was severely developmentally and physically disabled, and he had to get some kind of support his whole life, as did my father. I want others to be supported too.”
Rice has been involved with medical practice since she worked as a candy striper when she was 15-years old.
“I’ve spent my whole life in healthcare. I was a nurses’ aide through college and became a nurse practitioner, so this has always been my passion. I had studied briefly in England with the national health service there,” said Rice. “I became a co-chair of the healthcare committee of Sewanee Organize and Act, so this has been my area.”
Evans said Grundy County is one of the poorest counties in the country and, because of Medicaid, the children and families that come to her practice are able to receive healthcare. She said the proposal to repeal the ACA is dangerous to the health of American children.
“When a baby is born, you can almost predict based on where they live what their outcome will be. Children who have Medicaid are more likely to grow up healthy and to finish school. Children don’t live in a vacuum—they live in a community. If the community is unhealthy, the children will be too,” said Evans.
Rice said she was unsurprised that most of those in attendance were of similar political opinions.
“It would be nice to have a dialogue, but I think there’s such a wide gap of different opinions that has been very, very difficult to bridge,” she said.
Her sentiments were shared.
“In order to move forward, I think we need to be less partisan. It needs to be a humanity-based endeavor. The divide is so distinct that it often comes to people not listening,” said Dale McDaniel, Sewanee resident.
The panel was recorded to be sent to elected officials, according to Rice. There were no elected officials present at the panel.