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U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper speaks to campus on healthcare

President Barack Obama once called Rep. Jim Cooper the “smartest man in Congress,” and Belmont had the opportunity to host Cooper as he shared his knowledge on contemporary health care policy Monday morning.

“Belmont is a great university with great faculty and students. It’s especially important to make Tennesseans aware of changing health policy as healthcare is such a large industry here in Middle Tennessee,” Cooper said, speaking to the purpose of his visit.

As such, Cooper spoke in an event arranged by the Omicron Delta Epsilon International Honor Society for Economics to provide some political context for bills like the Affordable Care Act, on a national level, and the Insure Tennessee Act, on a state level.

Insure Tennessee, a bill created by Gov. Bill Haslam, is essentially a state-specific expansion of Medicaid coverage for the “working poor,” as the bill’s language outlines.

This bill, which would cover over 280,000 Tennesseans– and 30,000 in Nashville alone–, was the primary focus for the morning, as it had just been voted down recently in a state congressional session.

Cooper, who was an original supporter of the Affordable Care Act –often referred to by its short form, “Obamacare”– spent his time defending the merits of the Insure Tennessee bill.

“Healthcare is the trillion dollar question here in America as costs are consistently rising, and yet many citizens in Tennessee are ‘too rich’ for Medicaid, but ‘too poor’ for private insurance,” Cooper said. “And so due to my colleagues here in Tennessee voting down the Insure Tennessee Act, there has been a gap created in coverage that should be provided by the state-funded provision of Medicaid.”

After finishing his defense of the trend in state and national healthcare policy, Cooper took several questions from the audience.

One question from junior international business major Joseph Minga asked whether or not Cooper believed that Gov. Haslam’s lack of support for his own bill was the reason it failed.

“It strikes me as odd that the Governor would create a bill and then not mention it in his own inaugural address,” Cooper said. “It makes you wonder if he actually believes in the provisions of the bill in the first place.”

Overall, students seemed largely satisfied with his presentation and coverage of the hot-button political issue.

“Although my question about palliative care was not answered as thoroughly as I would have liked, I went into this talk moderately open-minded,” sophomore nursing major Julia Sherwood said. “I feel like Rep. Cooper covered the bill extensively enough to get his point across.”

This article was written by Danny Zydel.

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