Adam Nickas has been named the new executive director of Tennesseans for a Responsible Future (TRF) and has begun a statewide tour educating people on increasing affordable healthcare opportunities.
“I am proud to join Tennesseans for a Responsible Future and advocate for the health and prosperity of Tennesseans through sound healthcare policies, including increasing access to affordable healthcare coverage for Tennesseans,” Nickas said. “This effort is not simply about Insure Tennessee. It is about insuring Tennesseans, enabling 280,000 of our hard-working neighbors, friends and veterans to access affordable healthcare coverage. I am convinced we can accomplish that goal with a responsible, conservative program designed by Tennessee, for Tennessee.”
Nickas served as executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party during the 2012 election cycle and political director during the 2010 cycle. He also serves as a consultant for Capitol Resources, specializing in government relations and communication strategies regarding public policy issues.
TRF was launched in January by the Tennessee Hospital Association to better understand the facts and statistics facing the total estimated 473,000 Tennesseans who fall under the Medicaid “Coverage Gap,” or uninsured individuals working low-waged jobs. About 5,000 of those individuals live in Maury County.
“Those are folks that make more money than what would qualify them to be on TennCare, but don’t make enough to afford healthcare on the new exchanges,” Nickas said. “They are people that do work that we interact with and utilize on a daily basis.”
The gap also largely consists of veterans, people recently laid off from jobs and single-parents.
Since it was first introduced by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014 as a two-year pilot program, Insure Tennessee has failed twice in the state Senate. Nickas claims this was partly due to the lack of needed support from both constituents and the general public.
Educating those same people about the financial, health and community benefits of a program like Insure Tennessee should build a stronger argument if it is considered again by state legislators, he said.
“[Haslam’s] intention was to find an alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion. He came up with a Tennessee plan that included some conservative principles of encouraging personal responsibility and incentivising healthy behaviors,” Nickas said. “There was a pretty robust debate about it, but it just did not get past those initial committees. In my mind, it was a pretty straightforward proposal … but I think one of the issues was that the general public, even to this day, probably can’t tell you what Insure Tennessee is.”
According to TRF, Insure Tennessee’s financial impact would include more than $1.1 billion federal tax dollars in new healthcare spending, $909 million in new income and 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
“I think when legislators were digesting this information, they were potentially looking back at their districts for direction from their constituents, as they should, and there just wasn’t much direction given,” Nickas said. “Our effort is designed to go out and educate constituents across the state about Insure Tennessee, or whatever other proposal may come about in the next few months, so when legislators get back into session they can look at this proposal and say, ‘Okay, now I’m hearing from constituents that understand what the problem is and what the solution is.’”
For more information on TRF’s efforts and Insure Tennessee’s county-by-county statistics, visit www.tennfuture.org
By JAY POWELL