By Cassandra Lans
At a news conference on Wednesday morning, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, healthcare professionals, and community members in need of BadgerCare responded to Tuesday’s vote by the Joint Finance Committee to reject billions of federal funds for BadgerCare and leave citizens to continue to struggle to access healthcare.
The deal struck by the Joint Finance Committee, admitting Walker’s plan causes tens of thousands of people throughout Wisconsin to lose health coverage, must be voted on in the Assembly and Senate. BadgerCare is one of the most controversial elements of Walker’s budget plan and has faced opposition within Walker’s own party.
Walker’s, and now the Joint Finance Committee’s, plan to compensate hospitals for the impact of forcing people off health coverage while also rejecting billions of federal Medicaid dollars reveals a stunningly callous and immoral act to block access to healthcare when it is easy to prevent this tragic result in the first place.
At the news event local leaders and health professionals responded to this vote that puts politics before good policy and the health of our citizens. No major healthcare organization has endorsed the plan to reject billions in federal funds. Response actions were also held for Wausau, La Crosse, Appleton and Eau Claire June 5th as well.
State Legislators also weighed in on this plan. State Representative Leon Young stated, “The aim of every Wisconsin legislator should be focused on rebuilding our lagging economy, but the recent decisions made by GOP members of the JFC calls into question their stance on this very notion.
Voting along party lines (12-4), Republicans inconsiderately decided to reject federal dollars in expanding Medicaid, and opted for a plan that would cost the state $119 million dollars and cover 84,700 less people. Individuals who are most dependent on Medicaid are those whose ability to access healthcare is confined by disability, poverty or age.
To approve a budget that puts the less fortunate at a further disadvantage by denying them a legitimate opportunity to quality and affordable healthcare is not only a shame, it demonstrates a lack of morals and fiscal soundness.
It is detrimental decisions like this that work directly against building a stronger middle-class, which we all know is the driving force to improving an economy. If Republicans continuously fail to make commonsense decisions in order to protect the platform of an aspiring president and promote special interests, we will constantly struggle to become the model state, with a prospering economy that we once prided ourselves on.”
And assistant Assembly Democratic Leader and Assembly Health Committee ranking member Sandy Pasch released this statement in response to the Assembly Health Committee meeting: “Today’s hearing on these rushed, extreme pieces of antiwomen’s health legislation is an obvious attempt to distract and deceive Wisconsinites from the fact that legislative Republicans just approved their backroom deal that kicks tens of thousands of people off of BadgerCare, diverts funding from public schools to expand the unaccountable private voucher program statewide, and doles out tax breaks to the wealthy over middle-to-low income families.
At a time when Wisconsin remains 44th in the nation in job growth, 45th in wage growth, and dead last in short-term job growth, it is stunning – but unfortunately not surprising – that Wisconsin Republicans are more interested in blocking access to health care services that women need instead of focusing on the real issues facing women and Wisconsin families.”
Congresswoman Gwen Moore addressed the issue even prior to Tuesday’s decision, in her statement she said, “Once again, all eyes are on the elected leaders of the State of Wisconsin, who are currently making critical decisions about whether or not to contract or expand existing BadgerCare coverage.
Governor Walker has proposed a budget that would change BadgerCare eligibility and deny coverage to 89,000 Wisconsin parents as well as 6,000 adults without dependent children. I fear for these individuals—for their health and their economic security. I am also concerned for the fate of the Family Planning Only program, and for the pregnant women currently receiving BadgerCare access to prenatal and post-natal care who would lose these benefits under the Walker proposal.
Not even Wisconsin’s children could escape the Governor’s BadgerCare chopping block. Under his proposed policy change, 29,000 children would lose future coverage.
Today, I’m joining the statewide ‘Day of Action,’ where thousands will raise their voices in support of affordable health care access for our low-income populations, including thousands of women and children. The time has come for lawmakers to do all they can to improve the Governor’s proposals and preserve access to care for Wisconsinites. For the sake of our vulnerable communities, hospitals, health care providers, and our state’s health and economy—I implore the Wisconsin legislature to protect and expand current BadgerCare coverage.”
At Wednesday morning’s press conference held at the Center for Quality Community Life, 6830 W. Villard Ave. in Milwaukee, Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin gathered local advocates to speak how the cutting of BadgerCare will be detrimental to thousands of citizens.
These advocates held signs stating, ‘Epidemic of the uninsured’, Say “Yes” to BadgerCare’ and ‘Accept the Federal Funds’. Ruthann Bowen, an ovarian cancer survivor spoke on how if it were not for BadgerCare she would have probably died.
Bowen worked for a company for many years that provided health care, yet after being let go, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With no insurance available Badger- Care was there when she needed it.
“If BadgerCare had not been available to me when I needed it, I probably would not have been able to get the needed care. And I would have died.” Bowen expressed.
Dawn Anderson, a member of the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Association said that without Badger- Care, and federal funds thousands of the women that she advocates for will go without early or any detection of breast cancer, because they will not be able to receive a mammogram or any preventive health care treatments.
“We need to stop the dependency of the emergency rooms. For uninsured people, many times this is the only time that they see a doctor. And many times the disease is so far along, the outcome is not good. We need to support preventive health disease”.
Fortunately, the decision made Tuesday is not final. The state legislature still has to vote on it. If the senators who are against it stay firm, then BadgerCare and accepting federal funds has a chance to survive.
Advocates say they will stay strong with the fight to save BadgerCare from extreme cuts, and for Wisconsin to accept the federal funds for health care connected to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Kraig also pointed out that the surrounding states around Wisconsin are accepting the federal dollars. “Where Wisconsin used to be a leader in such programs like BadgerCare, with these decision’s from the Walker administration we are going backwards. There is still time to reverse the decision even if the state legislature fails us now. But, look at the damage that it will cause. A health care crisis can wipe a family out financially”.