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Tennessee Health Care Campaign

This is the second installment of “Get To Know A Member Group Better”. Rachel our intern has been interviewing various member organizations to learn more about the work they are doing. Rachel interviewed Brad Palmertree, Director of Communications, with member group Tennessee Health Care Campaign.

What is your overall mission?

Tennessee Health Care Campaign works for affordable access to high-quality health care for all Tennesseans.

 What are the goals for the organization?

Our current goal is to see health reform implemented in a consumer-friendly way here in Tennessee. When the federal government passed the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA), sometimes known as “Obamacare,” it did so in a way that allows states a lot of flexibility. Basically, each state is now charged with implementing the PPACA in a way that works best for them. So we want to see Tennessee do this while engaging patients and putting their needs ahead of the politics that often clouds this process.

 How many years has the organization been around?

THCC was founded in 1989 so we’ve been around for 22 years.

 What has been your biggest obstacle?

One of our biggest obstacles has been navigating the political landscape when it comes to health care policy. Of course, we want to see everyone have access to health care, but unfortunately, you can’t talk about that without it becoming a philosophical or political statement. We have consistently (and successfully) worked with members of both major parties, but most people still like to think we pander to one side over another. We understand the political realities of our mission, but we like to think that providing care to our most vulnerable neighbors rises above political rhetoric and party platforms.

What do you think your obstacle will be in the future?

Well, there are two; one short-term & one long-term. The first is what most everyone is worried about: will the Supreme Court uphold or dismantle the PPACA when it releases its decision in late June? If the Court decides that the law (or just one piece of the law) should not be upheld, we will have a lot of work to do in order to ensure that consumer protections already in place because of the law aren’t ripped away. Then we will have to look at Plan B. If the Court upholds the law, we know exactly what we’re working towards and that leads us to our long-term obstacle.

Our long-term obstacle is to see the 700,000 newly-eligible Tennesseans enrolled in health insurance coverage. We have 5 months to make sure all of these people are reached and understand their options. That’s 3,846 per day!  It will be quite the undertaking, but one that we are already making plans at which to succeed.

 What has been your greatest achievement?

We’ve always been proud that we were at the table when TennCare was first formed and gave access to hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who needed access to care. More recently, we worked tirelessly to see national health reform pass and that was a shining moment for us.

What have you done in the past 12 months that was a success to the organization?

Since the Affordable Care Act passed, we launched a public education campaign like none other. We realized that people were looking to us to provide answers and analysis. Over the past year, we’ve done over 100 presentations to over 5,000 Tennesseans. We know that we’ve changed public perception about the law and dispelled some of the myths. That’s a true success that is already paying off with a change in public opinion about the law.

How do you get word about your organization?

We have a huge base of grassroots volunteers spread all across this beautiful state. They have formed Local Organizing Groups and some of these continue to meet on a monthly basis. They are our voice in the local communities while we operate out of Nashville. We also utilize our e-newsletters, our website, and social media with a presence on both Facebook and Twitter.

Many people, including legislators, tell people of our direct service work. We have a social worker on staff who receives referrals of clients who have been dropped from insurance (public or private), denied insurance, or simply have no access to insurance coverage and needs care. She works with these clients so that they are able to receive the care they need and deserve in order to be a productive, contributing member of society.

How many people do you have working for your organization?

Most people wouldn’t believe that we only two full-time staff members, and one part-time social worker.

What are some volunteer opportunities available for your organization?

We are always looking for volunteers for a variety of opportunities. The Local Organizing Groups are always looking for volunteer leaders to maintain sustainability and to work on local issues affecting their neighbors. Here in Nashville, volunteers are welcome to come by the office. We are looking for help in updating our database, revamping our website, helping with photo & video editing, analyzing health policy, or recording the stories of our clients who have been disadvantaged by the current health care system.

 What is your source of fundraising?

We receive all of our funding from individuals and foundations.

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