The Tennessean reports that all Tennessee state senators, no matter how long they serve or whether they were elected or appointed, get a major, lifelong discount on the state employees' health insurance plan. The latest beneficiary of this perk is Sidney Chism (D-Memphis), who is serving a three-month term as a replacement for a senator who resigned:

The perk has some lawmakers fuming, saying that it seems an abuse of the rules. Good-government groups say the timing of Chism accepting this perk is hideous, since it comes as the state is planning to toss hundreds of thousands of TennCare patients from the rolls of the troubled state health-care system.

TennCare provides free or low-cost health care to about 1.3 million indigent, disabled, and uninsured Tennesseans. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen is trying to balance the budget by purging more than 300,000 patients from TennCare's rolls, nearly a fourth of the total covered by the plan.

Tennessee legislators' deal on insurance puts TennCare to shame, anyway:

Current lawmakers pay, on average, anywhere from $81 a month for individual coverage to $215 a month for a family, according to the Finance and Administration Department. The maximum any of them pay is $86 for an individual or $215 for a family.

That's a far cry from the costs that TennCare participants pay. In TennCare, the people who are required to pay premiums are charged anywhere up to $550 a month for an individual or up to $1,375 a month for a family. Most TennCare participants are those who opt for the program because they are sick, not just in case they get sick.