By Dian Palmer, RN
Chair of the National Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare and President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin
If there’s one thing I know as a nurse, it’s that too many Wisconsin families simply can’t afford to pay more every month for their healthcare and this has been made worse by self-interested politicians undermining our healthcare system. Nine months of unrelenting attempts by members of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid are not helping America’s working families, seniors, children, or people with disabilities.
I’m a nurse that has been caring for patients for more than 25 years. As a member of a growing workforce that forms the backbone of our healthcare system, and along with my fellow 85,000 nurses in SEIU, I have proudly advocated for improving and strengthening our healthcare system. I’ve never seen a Congress, or an administration so driven by politics and so ready to put corporate interests ahead of the interests of working people. We need to do better right now.
There are 3.3 million nurses like me on the frontlines of bedside care across America providing dedicated care in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. This year, we have invested even more of our time in stopping repeated healthcare repeal efforts by Congress that would endanger the health of so many of our patients and defending Medicaid, a program that provides care for 1 in 5 Americans.
Closer to home, Governor Walker is continuing to obstruct healthcare for working people and even returning veterans. In 2013 and 2015, Gov. Scott Walker rejected $550 million in federal funds that would have expanded Medicaid to more working families, which meant thousands lost healthcare coverage and even more costs were shifted onto Wisconsin taxpayers.
Because of the Trump administration’s recent executive order regarding cost sharing payments that help lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for working families, 216,000 Wisconsin residents who buy their coverage through the healthcare marketplace will be facing a 36% rate hike next year. And that’s just one example of the way this administration is actively trying to destabilize insurance markets and make sure the Affordable Care Act fails.
Here are more examples: This congress and administration have also failed to renew funding for 9 million children who get their healthcare through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They have changed the healthcare law to allow corporations and CEO’s to halt birth control coverage for working women—98% of whom will rely on birth control over their lifetime.
All of this under a repeated theme coming out of Washington, DC that the Affordable Care Act is a failure. Nurses want our patients and communities to know that’s not true. This administration is taking steps every day to make it fail and to fail the very people who need it most: all of us who work hard for a living.
While the Trump administration is actively trying to sabotage our healthcare, nurses are doing what we do best. Coming to the aid of people in crisis and trying to improve the quality of care in our own hospitals, communities and states every day. Over the past few months, SEIU nurses have traveled to Houston, Miami and San Juan providing care for Americans devastated by natural disasters. We’ve been advocating in our state houses for improved safe staffing levels and combating the factors of workplace violence that is a daily danger to nurses. We’ve been focused on recruiting, training and mentoring new nurses who we need to stay in this demanding, humbling and incredible profession. No wrongheaded administration will stop the work we do.
This week, hundreds of union nurses will gather in Washington DC to continue to stand up for our patients. We will meet with members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats to urge them to find bipartisan solutions to stabilize our insurance markets, protect healthcare for working people and stop the Trump administration’s campaign of sabotage.
Across the country nurses, doctors and home care workers are building a movement to join healthcare voters in Wisconsin and across the country. In 2018, we’ll remember the Republicans who voted to take healthcare and Medicaid away and to sabotage the healthcare our patients count on just to provide tax breaks to the wealthiest and corporations. We urge you to stand with us.