By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Health Care Repeal Proves Democracy Isn’t Just a Spectator Sport
“Don’t boo, vote!” was what former President Barack Obama would tell people at campaign rallies when they heard Donald Trump’s name. Many of us understood what he meant, but others simply didn’t fully comprehend the importance of his plea. Today, there are few that would argue the impact of the November 8, 2016 election. Whether your candidate won or lost, or you stayed home and let others decide the outcome for you, last year’s presidential contest was consequential. Within a little over 6 months, we have seen the nation’s identity, priorities, and values be challenged. We have watched leaders abdicate their responsibility to provide checks and balances and place party politics ahead of the welfare of the country.
A clear example of that has been the work of congressional Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare as it has come to be called. On the heels of the passage of House Republican’s bill to do away with health care for an estimated 23 million Americans, the Senate Republican members received word last week that their legislation to repeal and replace wouldn’t fare much better. Crafting the initial bill without input from even their own members, Republican infighting has temporarily stalled the measure’s introduction. In a real democracy, a delay in a vote would result because of the need for debate and public input. Moreover, it would be helpful to have a President that can explain the provisions for which he is seeking support. Instead we get words like “mean” or “It’ll be just fine” that belies Trump’s real understanding of the Senate GOP plan. Or maybe, the President knows the proposed legislation is a bad idea.
The bill dramatically cuts and restructures Medicaid, which is how most low income and individuals with disabilities get health coverage. More than 1 million Wisconsinites rely on Medicaid. Additionally, the bill also gives middle income earners a tax credit to buy health insurance that is less than what is provided under ACA, cuts funding from Planned Parenthood, allows those with pre-existing conditions to be charged more for health care, and lets individual states decide which benefits an insurance company must cover. However, 2.5 million people in our state suffer from pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer. Further, it is estimated that 431,000 Wisconsin residents could lose their health coverage and the state would be out more than $13 billion in federal funding. As a member of the state’s Joint Committee on Finance, I understand the need to have sustainable systems, whether in education, transportation or healthcare. Federally or at the state level, we all have tough choices to make.
Speaking of decisions, many of us decided how to celebrate the 4th of July holiday. Some reflected on what it means to be an American and respect for our democracy. Others took the opportunity to use the Independence Day holiday to champion the rights of others, attend town hall meetings and contact their legislators to make their wishes known about the efforts to repeal and replace our current healthcare system. We can still impact the decisions of the healthcare debate, but we can’t do it from the sidelines!