Few of Tennessee's state representatives comes even close to matching Rep. JoAnne Favors' depth of expertise and professional knowledge in health care. And fewer still devotedly strive as conscientiously as Favors to improve state policies and programs in education, family issues, affordable housing and neighborhood safety. For those reasons, among others, we heartily endorse re-election of JoAnne Favors to a fifth term in the newly configured District 28 of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Rep. Favors comes to the new 28th District as a result of Republicans' gerrymandering connivance against our African-American representatives in the decennial realignment of state and federal legislative districts. She was gerrymandered out of her current 29th District seat and into the newly redrawn 28th District long held by Rep. Tommie Brown, with whom she had worked side-by-side the past eight years to represent Hamilton County's two minority-majority districts. Forced to compete Brown in the August primary for the new 28th District, now the only minority-majority district, she won handily.
Now, she's being challenged by Johnny Horne, a minister and well-known community advocate in South Chattanooga who has unsuccessfully run before for public office. Horne says his status as an African-American Republican would give him more clout than Favors. We respectfully disagree. Favors has worked her way onto committee posts and developed valuable relationships, credibility and understanding of the legislative machinery that Horne could not readily duplicate.
Favors' advantages include the broad knowledge of health care and community issues she brings to the table, and the respect she has earned as an advocate and spokesperson in vital issues. Her background in health care is among her strongest credentials. She's earned a masters of science in adult health and nursing administration; taught more than 1,000 aspiring nurses as an associate professor at CSTCC; served as a vigorous executive director of the Southside and Dodson Avenue Community Health Centers; and served as trustee of Erlanger Hospital, as a member of the Legislature's Health and Human Resources committee, as chair of the professional occupations committee, and as a member of the Legislature's Health Insurance Task Force. She's also been awarded a small mountain of civic honors.
That ample background puts Favors in a key position to help inform, if not steer, the state's establishment in the next session of a state health insurance exchange. This is the landmark beginning of the Affordable Care Act's mechanism to provide flat-rate, comprehensive health care insurance for all uninsured Tennesseans who now find such insurance unaffordable, or unavailable to them because of pre-existing conditions.
Through the exchange, individuals and families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, or who are too young for Medicare, may qualify for wage-based subsidies -- up to four times the poverty level -- to buy affordable, comprehensive health insurance. This will be a godsend for the nearly 25 percent of Tennessee workers who now go without health insurance and regular preventive care.
Though the state's Republicans wrongly hope to see Obamacare repealed, the governor and top legislators have sensibly decided to begin establishing the insurance exchange in the probable likelihood that the most significant part of Obamacare will take root, as scheduled, in just 14 months, in January 2014. Favors needs to be on hand to advise in the creation of affordable, secure health care for all Tennesseans.
She is needed, as well, to advocate acceptance of the part of the ACA that provides for extension of Medicaid/TennCare up to the income threshold of 150 percent of poverty levels. The incentives for participating are huge, but ideological opponents of health care reform -- largely as a cruel political tactic to sabotage Obama's presidency -- need to be persuaded to do the right thing.
Favors has other goals, to be sure. She's a strong advocate for better schools, and for grants for small businesses. And having served several terms on the County Commission when Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam's chief deputy, was county executive, she hopes to work with him to fund the $12.5 million installment owed Hamilton County schools since 2008.
Favors merits re-election. We urge her district to return her to office.