November 11, 2011
A Return to Inequity
By Senator Lena C. Taylor
In a meeting of the legislative Joint Finance Committee on Thursday, November 10, Republicans voted to approve a proposal from Governor Walker that will severely cut state health programs.
Wisconsin state health plans cover about 1.2 million residents. These programs provide necessary health care services, including medical visits for poor families and nursing home care for the elderly.
Medicaid has been under recent fire from Republican state legislators and has already received devastating cuts. Federal aid money for these programs has run out and Republicans have decided that providing pertinent medical services to citizens is no longer a responsibility of the state.
Governor Walker’s bill would decrease benefits for a quarter of a million recipients and increase premiums for thousands of others. Adults and children would also be dropped from coverage for at least a year if a family misses a payment. Walker’s proposal still needs to win federal approval from President Barack Obama by the end of the year, however.
This plan is yet another consequence of Gov. Walker’s and legislative Republicans’ choice to balance the budget on the backs of Wisconsin working families, the middle class, children and seniors to pay for $2.3 billion in tax giveaways that unfairly benefit the wealthy and big corporations. They’ve already cut $1.6 billion from our public schools, increased taxes by nearly $70 million on working families and seniors, slashed funding for technical colleges and job training by $70 million and hiked tuition at UW-Madison by $107 million. An attack on Wisconsinites’ right to health care will not be tolerated.
Republicans claim individuals would only lose medical coverage if they choose to not make their payments. This is not a matter of choice! Underprivileged citizens are often unable to choose whether or not they can pay for health care; it is often a choice between a doctor’s appointment or food. Poor citizens of Wisconsin often do not have any other means to obtain health care and rely solely on programs like Medicaid for their health care.
According to the Fiscal Bureau, the Walker plan means over 260,000 people in the BadgerCare program will pay more and get less. The plan will result in the loss of health insurance for an estimated 64,000 people, including children. People who lose their access to preventative health care will be forced to frequent emergency rooms with more acute symptoms. These uncompensated emergency room expenses will by passed along in the form of higher costs to hospitals and private insurance for individuals and businesses, increasing costs on medical services for all Wisconsin residents.
I am appalled that the GOP is working to undo decades of bipartisan cooperation that has resulted in 98 percent of Wisconsin children having access to health insurance and some of the highest rates of insurance coverage in the nation. This assault on underprivileged citizens cannot stand. It will do nothing more than take us backwards. Health care cannot be an area where we regress