July 22, 2014

Affordable Care Act

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

On January 11th 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before the United States Congress and delivered the State of the Union Address. During his address President Roosevelt proposed a second “bill of rights.” President Roosevelt posited that “necessitous men are not free men” and that not until Americans were free of economic pressures could they live freely, his second bill of rights aimed at granting rights that guaranteed economic security – such as the right to employment with a fair wage, the right to food and clothing, the right to education, the right to housing and the right to healthcare. 

These rights were never accepted as a bill of rights; however legislators, activists and citizens across our country continue to fight every day to ensure that these rights are protected by our government. On March 23rd 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, making much needed changes to our healthcare system and ensuring that previously uninsured peoples would have access to healthcare. While only one of the many rights President Roosevelt proposed in his second bill of rights, healthcare represented a serious and much needed step in the road to freeing Americans everywhere of the economic strain that held them back.

Four years later, and we are just beginning to see the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Commonwealth Fund published a report earlier this month that estimated that a total of 9.5 million fewer adults are uninsured following the implementation of the ACA.  Additionally, 58 percent of Americans covered under the ACA have said they are better off than they were beforehand, and only 9 percent said they were worse off. The numbers are starting to come in and they look more than promising for the future of the ACA.  It is quite clear then, that the ACA is fulfilling its purpose of bringing quality healthcare to all Americans.

In spite of the numbers, Republicans continue to argue that the law is ineffective. Due to the cost of the law and the persistence of the GOP and Republican based voters; it is likely that this fight and the critics of the ACA will not go away. In fact, in our own state of Wisconsin Republican legislators are preventing tens of thousands of hardworking Wisconsin citizens from receiving healthcare.

In February of 2013 Governor Walker chose to reject federal funds and shrink BadgerCare (instead of expanding it as the ACA called for), effectively ensuring that tens of thousands of Wisconsinites would lose their healthcare – instead of working to guarantee that all of our state was covered. This action flew in the face of sense. There is a reason that all of our neighboring states and nine GOP governors have taken the opportunity to provide healthcare for their states. It just plain makes sense; both from a economic sense, as well as a compassionate and human sense. As President Roosevelt said in his State of the Union Address, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” Removing healthcare from our neighbors, our friends and our coworkers only stands to hurt them, and by proxy hurt the rest of our state’s economy and ourselves.

Not only do we stand to lose money by shrinking BadgerCare, but denying federal funds to do so means that our hard earned tax dollars are going to fund the healthcare of individuals in other states. While I am certainly proud of our country on a national scale, I am of the firm belief that Wisconsin deserves its equal share!

There are currently twenty four state governments which remain firm in rejecting Federal Medicaid expansion within their jurisdictions – including Wisconsin. This behavior creates an unfortunate coverage gap for certain individuals, who have an income that is too high to receive coverage through the state run Medicaid programs and do not meeting the federal income thresholds to receive subsidies under ACA.

If the remaining twenty four states would accept federal funding, not only would they be able to expand medical coverage to many more millions of hardworking Americans, but they would also allowing billions of dollars to enter their economies. The reality is that states which have accepted the federal money appropriated for Medicaid expansion have seen a boost within their state economies. The federal money elicits a need for an increase in medical infrastructure, creating thousands of jobs within these states. This money also works to ensure financial stability for individuals or families who previously did not receive support with medical care. The medical expansion results in both economic and job growth, in addition it supports an increase in the quality of life for many citizens within the states accepting the federal funding.

States that have refused Medicaid expansion have done so merely in protest of the ACA. This trend has done nothing but prevented Americans from appropriately receiving medical coverage. The trend has not, much to the chagrin of many GOP lawmakers, impeded the success of the Affordable Care Act. It is time for Wisconsin to join the ranks of states that fight for their economic success. We must change course, accept the tax dollars that we have earned and expand BadgerCare so as to cover those who our caught without necessary coverage. I urge Wisconsin Republicans to join in a bipartisan effort to better our state and raise the quality of life for Wisconsinites.

Madison Office - 608-266-5810

Room 5, South Wing
State Capitol , P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882