The Bill and the Med 

Good for you, Steve Cohen. And Bart Gordon and Jim Cooper. And good for the 200-and-some-odd other members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for the long-overdue health-care measure that finally wended its way past the last desperate obstruction and went to President Obama on Sunday for his signature. It did so by the process of "reconciliation," as it was called technically but let us call it by its right name: majority vote. All Democrats, as it turned out. It need not have been so, for, like Social Security and Medicare before it, it will benefit all Americans.

Yes, there are imperfections, but the scaffolding is now in place for the future carpenter work by Congresses to come that will improve a structure of universal health-care coverage for Americans that was dreamed of as far back as Theodore Roosevelt.

Said Cohen: "The bills that we passed today will forever change the landscape of America's health-care delivery system for the better. The House has passed legislation that will extend health insurance to millions of Americans who don't have it now and will cover more than 95 percent of our country's citizens with affordable, quality health plans. I am proud to have lent my support and input for this legislation."

And Cohen spoke also to the kicker that should shame all those other Tennessee congressional representatives, Democrat and Republican, who voted against the bill.

"The passage of these bills will help the Med through a provision in the reconciliation package, for which I fought vehemently, that increases the state's diminutive Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment. ... Under this provision, the Med will receive more federally directed funding than it does now, as it renders more uncompensated care than any other hospital in the state of Tennessee. Accordingly, Shelby County tax payers will reap the benefits of this provision, as they are the ones who foot the bill for the care that the Med provides to those patients who are unable to pay." 

If there is a single cause that unites all local political forces, it is that of saving the underfunded Med. We all know — or should know — the story by now. The only trauma center and indigent-care hospital for 200 miles. The indispensable training hospital for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The linchpin, as it were, of basic medical care in the Mid-South. And in danger of closing for lack of funding.

State government either could not or would not help. Local government was strapped and powerless. It was only through passage of H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and H.R. 4872, the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, that, thanks to Cohen and other intercessors, additional funding was to be had, perhaps enough to save the Med or to begin that process.

It was already shameful and hypocritical for politicians claiming to represent the best interests of Memphis and the Mid-South to have willfully slandered the modest but well-intentioned health-care measure before them and to have agitated against it and tried to vote it down. Taking the issue of Med funding into consideration, such behavior was beyond understanding.

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