Senator Alexander specific on health care goals, Nathan Bedford Forrest bust

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – “Peace of mind” for 350,000 Tennesseans is what Senator Lamar Alexander aims for with his upcoming healthcare hearings, but he also joined the chorus of top politicians on what to do with the lingering issue of a Confederate war hero’s bust in the state capitol.

After a Nashville event honoring his wife Honey for her decades of help with the non-profit called Family and Children’s Services, the Tennessee senator first addressed the issue of the Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust that sits between the Tennessee House and Senate on the second floor of the state capitol.

The senator said there “is a place to honor” all of those in the Civil War whether it be the “battlefield, birthplaces or museums” but “places of honor should be for those who inspire all of us.”

He then said, “There is a place for General Forrest’s bust, but not in a place of honor at the state capitol.”

Instead, he said that place of honor should have Tennesseans like “Roots” author Alex Haley, Senator Howard Baker, or World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York.

The senator acknowledged changing his stance from 1980 when he said as Tennessee governor that removing the Forrest bust would “erase history,” but Alexander said Tuesday that back then he “thought it was more important to appoint the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in Tennessee, which I did. More important to pass the Martin Luther King holiday, which I did. More important to (appoint) the first black chancellor in the state, which I did.”

As for his hearings of the September US Senate health committee, which he chairs, Alexander said, “My goal is that the 350,000 Tennesseans and 18 million Americans who buy their insurance on the individual market can be able to do that in 2018 and at a price they can afford.”

The Tennessee senator said there are two things he hopes to accomplish with his health committee hearings.

“I would recommend that we continue the cost sharing payments from the (federal )government for another year, and two, give states more flexibility in the kind of (medical insurance) policies they can offer,” he told reporters Tuesday morning.

The two ideas aim to helps those who don’t have employer or government healthcare such as TennCare, instead of them wondering what might happen as premiums go up and health insurers pull out of markets not profitable.

It means insurance companies would get the additional help, so they might lower premiums and give hundreds of thousands the opportunity to choose cheaper policies with less coverage.

Alexander calls a simple step that can be done now in a bipartisan way.

“We are going to have to some things we don’t want to or we are going to hurt people,” said the senator, who indicated they could be seen as things that go against philosophies from both Republicans and Democrats.

The senator also says it’s governors and insurance commissioners of states like Tennessee that he wants to hear from at his upcoming hearings.

At this point, Governor Haslam has not been asked to testify. A spokesperson for Tennessee insurance commissioner says she Julie McPeak says she does plan to testify.