State capitol intern shares perspective on Insure Tennessee session

A Belmont student witnessed the conversational Insure Tennessee bill and rare special session at her internship at the state capitol.

As an intern, junior political science major Amanda Conway works for the Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey opening mail, sorting bills and answering phones. During the week of special session, Conway spent the majority of her time answering questions about Insure Tennessee.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee would have used a federal grant to expand Medicaid but was defeated on Feb. 4 in a 7 to 3 vote.

The bill was designed to shrink the gap for people who made too much to qualify for Medicaid but didn’t earn enough to cover premiums for Obamacare, said Conway.

“It was definitely hectic, there were lots of groups there trying to get their voices heard,” she said.

Americans for Prosperity, one protest group led by David Koch, was instrumental in defeating the bill, and the group couldn’t be missed crowding the hallways with its red “American for Prosperity” T-shirts and fliers, said Conway.

She spends over 40 hours a week interning in addition to the classes she takes at Belmont.

Her political science classes have prepared her with information about the process of bill-making and the differing leadership roles in the legislature.

However, the internship allows for a more hands-on learning approach in understanding sessions, filing bills, committee meetings and scheduling.

During the week of the special session, she felt added pressure.

The special session required more communication with people concerned with the effects of the bill.

Many callers spoke angrily, frustrated with the bill. Handling the pressure and stress of interacting with angry calls was a major lesson learned, said Conway.

“You have to be very careful in how you present things to everyone,” she said. “And you have to take everything with a grain of salt.”

After hearing concerns from answering calls and watching the special session unfold, Conway said the bill did not pass due to the remaining unanswered questions.

“One of the big things was that funding would only last for two years,” Conway said. “At the end of two years what would people do if it didn’t work out? Then, they would still be out of health care.”

Haslam will continue to work on reforming health care, but the bill won’t appear in legislation anytime soon, said Conway.

“I think everyone needs health insurance,” she said. “I just don’t know if we found the perfect way to do that. It’s going to take a lot of research and debating to figure out the best way.”

For now, Conway enjoys her internship at the state capitol, and sees it as her next step toward becoming either a senate clerk or college professor.

This article was written by Brooklyn Penn.

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