Editor’s note: The Tennessean Editorial Board invited U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and Middle Tennessee congressional and legislative candidates to fill out our survey. Find this candidate’s answers below. Replay statewide candidate interviews with the editorial board.
Dr. Brent Moody, Republican, candidate for Tennessee House of Representatives, District 56
Town or city of residence: Nashville
BBA – Accounting , The College of William & Mary. MD, Emory University
Staff Surgeon and Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University. Private Practice of Mohs Micrographic Surgery
Wife, Shelby and two daughters (19 and 16 )
What makes you qualified to hold this office and better qualified than your opponents?
As a physician, I bring three major strengths to the role of state representative. First, my medical training instilled in me a belief in the fundamental importance of data in making decisions. At a time when ideology drives so much of our political process, I pledge to rely on evidence. My core principles, such as the importance of personal responsibility and limited government, will always be guides. However, facts must be the basis of decisions.
In my profession, the most important part of what I do is listening. I hear what my patients say and understand their unique and individual circumstances before every treatment decision. I will use those same listening, understanding, and problem-solving skills as a Representative in the State House.
Finally, my knowledge of health care from the perspective of a physician will help solve the problems we have in health care access. Tennessee spends more state revenues on health care than any other area of our budget. The inability of some Tennesseans to afford or access health care is a major crisis, threatening the welfare of our citizens and our continued efforts to improve the quality of life. My years of study and practice as a cancer surgeon give me unique insights into the strengths and weaknesses of our health care system. I have ideas and insights that will improve health care in Tennessee.
Throughout this campaign I have avoided commenting on my opponents. I will continue to focus on my qualifications and ideas and leave it to the voters to decide who is best qualified to represent them.
If you are elected, what are your top 2 to 3 priorities for your new (or next) term in office?
The 56th District is mostly residential with no dominant industries or employers. The most important issues for voters tend to be the same issues that impact voters across the state.
1. Education. Education is the closest thing we have to a magic potion to improve lives. Tennessee has made good progress under Governor Haslam, but we have more work to do. My view on education is that parents, teachers and principals are on the front lines of our education system. They need to be empowered to make decisions that best suit the educational needs of each child.
Because the economy of the future will be shaped by rapidly evolving research, I want to enhance our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities and performance. I also will work to expand technical and vocational education opportunities to fill the large number of high paying jobs that do not require a college diploma. One area where I hope to make a difference is in expanding the number of school nurses. Our school nurse to student ratio is too low. In addition to understanding physical health, school nurses identify certain barriers to learning in younger students, such as vision and hearing issues, as well as spot signs of bullying and other unhealthy behaviors in students of all ages. There is evidence from other communities that expanding the roles of school nurses can have a positive impact on student outcomes.
Another specific area that needs attention is military readiness. Of Tennessee students who wish to serve in the armed forces, 73 percent are ineligible due to poor performance on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam or because of physical fitness reasons. They cannot even get in to door, so this career is off limits to them. I want to provide resources to equip students who wish to have a military career to be eligible for service.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that education could be our greatest national security challenge. Tennessee can be on the forefront of improving this situation.
2. Economic Growth. Tennessee has areas of strong economic growth, such as the Nashville region, but we also have areas where growth lags. Our goal should be to ensure that we preserve and expand our successes, while making smart decisions to bring new investment and jobs to those lagging regions.
I will work to maintain our climate of low taxes and sensible regulation as the basic foundation of our success, while looking for innovative ideas to spur growth around the state. Sustainable growth must come from the private sector. I believe Tennessee has the entrepreneurial spirit, the innovative thinking and the ethic of hard work needed to become a leading place for next generation jobs and technology. I am proud that the voice of the small business community, the National Federation of Independent Business, has endorsed me. Additionally, I want to be active in the General Assembly’s Life Sciences Caucus. We are poised to be a national and international hub for biomedical research, bringing more high paying jobs to Tennessee.
3. Health Care. As a physician, I understand the complex questions facing the Legislature with regard to health care. Unfortunately, too many politicians choose to equate access to an insurance card with access to health care. This presumption is simply not true. We must make sure that patients can actually get the care that they need.
Rather than rehash the same old arguments over health care expansion that have plagued the General Assembly for the past several years, I want to expand the conversation beyond simple insurance reform. We need solutions that will actually facilitate delivering the right care at the right time in the right setting at an affordable price. Just like economic growth comes from the private sector, I think the solution to this problem is going to come from the community, in collaboration with state government. For example, I have already started conversations with the major hospitals in Nashville.
They are all more than willing to be partners with state government to improve health care access and health outcomes for Tennesseans. By working together with full transparency, our citizens will have better and more affordable care. It is important to remember that the Federal Medicaid program is 53 years old.
TennCare was implemented in 1994 as a response to an unsustainable drain Medicaid was placing on the state budget. Even under the TennCare Program, massive disenrollment was required in the mid 2000s due to budget deficits caused by the program. We are dealing with programs that are old and outdated. Health care has changed since these programs were conceived. We need to make sure that Tennessee’s health care plans are sustainable and able to adjust to any alterations in the Federal payments for the programs.
Most recently, the General Assembly has discussed enhancing health care availability with ideas such as Insure Tennessee or a Federal Medicaid waiver and grant. Neither idea made it out of the General Assembly. We need a solution that will be viable and successful both medically and politically, otherwise we just continue the same old arguments and get nowhere.
My goals for health care reform at the state level to expand access are:
- Ensure that the provider community is fully engaged, able and willing to offer the needed care. Work with the major hospitals and health systems to make them active stakeholders in the process.
- Focus on providing actual health care, not simply an insurance card.
- Enhance rural health through the Tennessee Rural Hospital Transformation Act and technology, such as expanded broadband and telehealth.
- Create a plan that is sustainable and flexible to adjust to any alterations in the Federal payments for the program.
- Develop a program that is specific to the unique needs of Tennessee and customizable based upon any given community’s challenges and resources.
- Expand mental health and addiction treatment resources. Nashville is the health care city. We must continue to be the innovators in making health care more affordable, more available and more patient focused. Prevention and wellness are keys to lowering costs. I will join the General Assembly’s Wellness Caucus to help make this possibility a reality.
What are you hearing most from voters about what they want you to accomplish, if elected?
People are tired of the political noise. I will always remember the wise words of a voter I recently spoke with, he told me “just do the job and don’t mess things up.” Most voters in my district think that Governor Haslam has done an outstanding job and that Tennessee is on a very good course.
We recently saw that Tennessee is leading the nation is per capita income growth. Our unemployment is at a historic low and more Tennesseans are employed than at any point in our history. On doorsteps and at neighborhood meetings, I am hearing that the voters want a representative who will continue common sense, pragmatic policies that will continue to improve Tennessee’s schools, jobs, and quality of life.
The fact that my goals are to help Tennessee continue to improve in a thoughtful and respectful matter are some of the reasons that both Governor Haslam and our current Representative Beth Harwell have endorsed me in this race.
Will you commit to being civil in how you present yourself and the way you interact with opponents and others?
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you, your values and priorities?
My wife and I moved into House District 56 in 2003 with two toddlers. For 15 years, we have loved being a part of this community and raising our children here. Two years ago, we decided that if the State House seat became available, I should serve to repay Nashville for all that it has given to us. Physicians have an important role in the political life of Tennessee. Like my friend and fellow physician, State Senator Steve Dickerson, I have no desire to be a professional politician.