Leaked emails, obtained exclusively by TruthInMedia.com, between the Tennessee General Assembly’s Director of Legislative Affairs Connie Ridley and members of the state’s Senate, allege that Governor Bill Haslam’s administration plans to release unprecedented private details about lawmakers’ healthcare plans, a possible violation of privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Reportedly, the change in policy regarding legislators’ healthcare plans was made immediately following a special legislative session in which Haslam failed to convince lawmakers to back his Insure Tennessee Medicaid expansion, which has been characterized as an expansion of Obamacare into the state. Previously, less-detailed leaks about lawmakers’ healthcare plans were politicized by supporters of Insure Tennessee in an effort to personally attack legislators who opposed the plan.
Said Ridley in her email to lawmakers, seen above, “This is once again a dramatic and unprecedented departure from policy. As you may remember, I wrote to you in February to inform you that Benefits Administration was departing from their policy to release only the number of legislators and staff on the state health plan. Today, Benefits Administration is going further. They are releasing, both to The Tennessean and The Associated Press, not only the names of legislators on the plan but what type of plan they have, as well as the full cost.”
Another leaked email obtained by TruthInMedia.com, a reply by Republican State Senator Janice Bowling, seen below, implied that the policy change was made by the Haslam administration in an effort to put pressure on lawmakers who oppose his Insure Tennessee plan. Said Bowling, “There is no doubt that this is a HIPPA[sic] violation. We are observing and experiencing a culture of lawlessness that cloaked and defined the proposed expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. This culture continues to threaten and personally attack members of the Legislative branch of our great State.”
Connie Ridley’s email blamed the policy change on Haslam’s administration and said, “I would like to emphasize that decision was made in the executive branch at the direction of Benefits Administration Executive Director Laurie Lee. The Office of Legislative Administration did not approve of this release nor did we authorize it. Our policy of releasing only the number of legislators and staff goes back decades. This policy was also the policy of Benefits Administration until the concluding moments of this February’s special session on Insure Tennessee. The policy change was made in consultation with Finance & Administration General Counsel Martha Nichols. The General Assembly’s Office of Legal Services was not consulted.”
Senator Janice Bowling’s email concluded, “I am saddened, shocked and disgusted by this flagrant display of disregard for the rule of law. The same disregard for the rule of law expands as it shows no regard for the elected lawmakers representing the people of Tennessee… This culture of lawlessness must be exposed and pulled out by the root.”