Clergy support Medicaid expansion by delivering loaves, fish to lawmakers

Clergy support Medicaid expansion by delivering loaves, fish to lawmakers (Image 1)

Carrying baskets of “loaves and fish”, representative of an old Bible story, more than a dozen members of Nashville area clergy descended on Tennessee's Capitol hoping to sway lawmakers on a major health care issue.

The loaves and fish symbolism is drawn from the New Testament story of Jesus feeding thousands of people with the just a few pieces of bread and fish.

The clergy members said there is a parallel between delivering the loaves and fish and their support of taking Medicaid money to help the 200,000 Tennesseans without health care.

“We have a large constituency in the city of Nashville that deeply, that deeply needs whatever help we can give,” said W. Antoni Sinkfield, who is a member of a group called Clergy for Justice.

“Everyone is optimistic that Governor Haslam's 'Tennessee Health Plan' will be approved by the federal government,” said Kathy Chambers, organizer for the Clergy for Justice.  

“We just want to make it clear to our elected officials here in Tennessee that abandoning Medicaid expansion is not acceptable if the Governor's alternative plan is rejected,” she continued.

Among those receiving the loaves and fish, which was actually bread and paper fish, was Governor Bill Haslam.

He is in the midst of trying to get federal approval to use Medicaid expansion money from President Obama's health care law for the purchase of medical insurance for low income Tennesseans.

Last month he rejected simply expanding the state's Medicaid program TennCare to take advantage of the money.
Instead, he told lawmakers he was working on a “Tennessee Plan” that would use the funds to buy health care for needy Tennesseans without adding them to TennCare.
On Monday, Mr. Haslam said he agrees with the Biblical idea of helping those who have the least.

“That is a pretty clear command to have concern for the least, but also have a responsibility for something that is affordable for the state, not just now, but 20 years from now,” the governor told Nashville's News 2.

Haslam added that he continues to have conversations with the federal government about the using Medicaid money for what might become his “Tennessee Plan.”

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