Karl Dean for Governor Participates in Healthcare Roundtable in McKenzie, Discusses Looming Hospital Closure and Support for Medicaid Expansion to Help Tennessee’s Rural Communities
McKENZIE, Tenn. (Sept. 11, 2018) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean met with leaders and residents of McKenzie today to talk about the impending closure of McKenzie Regional Hospital, the latest hospital to shut down in the wake of Tennessee’s failure to expand Medicaid.
Unlike his opponent, Dean supports Medicaid expansion, which would mean expanding access to healthcare for 300,000 Tennesseans who now must live without insurance. The state could bring in $1.4 billion a year in federal funds if it expanded Medicaid, as 34 other states have done. The Affordable Care Act allows states to receive additional federal tax dollars to provide health coverage for people with low incomes, patients with pre-existing conditions and people who are aging.
The failure to expand Medicaid has been one factor in rural hospitals folding under the weight of their financial difficulties, limiting healthcare options for many Tennesseans. McKenzie Regional announced in July that it will close later this month, eliminating more than 100 jobs and becoming Tennessee’s 11th hospital to shut its doors since 2010.
At a roundtable discussion this afternoon with McKenzie’s mayor, the city’s police and fire chiefs, the hospital’s board chair and other residents, Dean noted that many West Tennessee counties are already struggling to maintain their tax base and attract economic development.
“I’m worried about the 15 counties in rural Tennessee that are losing population,” the former two-term mayor of Nashville said. “If you add a hospital closure on top of that, that’s a big concern.”
McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland said the hospital has been a fixture in the community for about 40 years and delivered more babies than any other facility in the area. She said many citizens fear they’ll go without healthcare once it closes.
“I don’t understand the decision of the legislature not to do Medicaid expansion, which would have helped save us,” Holland said.
Dean’s opponent, Republican Bill Lee, adamantly opposes Medicaid expansion. In a new TV ad that started airing statewide this week, Dean says Tennessee is essentially burning $3.8 million a day by not expanding Medicaid and funding health care in other states instead.
“We can fix this,” Dean says. “It’s just common sense.”