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Tennessee House votes on children’s hearing aid coverage despite opposition

Associated Press

A substantial majority of the Tennessee House of Representatives stood up to the bullying tactics of a powerful lobby this week and supported Tennessee children who need hearing aids.

The 82-12 vote on a bill mandating reasonable provisions for children’s hearing aid coverage in individual and group health insurance policies followed speeches by House members that were thrilling and logical.

“I really don’t care what kind of score that any of these special-interest groups give me,” declared Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton, the former House speaker.

“I’m appalled that any special interest or lobbyist will try to tell us how to vote on any issue.”

The General Assembly should be willing to put its passion for people with health problems and its disdain for heavy-handed lobbying tactics to work more often.

As The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville pointed out last month, denial rates for individual health coverage remain high in Tennessee and premium costs are rising.

Meanwhile, uninsured adults must wait for Jan. 1, 2014, when a provision of the federal Affordable Health Care Act prohibiting the denial of health care coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions — a law that many powerful members of the legislature oppose — goes into effect.

What stirred passions on the hearing aid measure that was up for approval this week was an offensive e-mail from the National Federation of Independent Business that urged a “no” vote, essentially threatening retaliation against legislators who supported the bill.

Three West Tennessee members — Reps. Mark White, R-Memphis; Vance Dennis, R-Savannah; and Andy Holt, R-Dresden — have no excuse for being among the 12 who voted against it. Sponsors said the benefit will add, at most, 2 cents to health insurance premiums.

What little opposition there was arose from the well-worn objections to “government mandates.” What supporters realized was that when it comes to health care for vulnerable citizens of a state or a nation, mandates are not always a bad thing. TAS

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