By U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join in the Bronzeville Week celebration in Milwaukee. I spent the afternoon working my way down MLK Drive, running into old friends and making new ones along the way.
It was great to see how hard Bruce Martin is working to open King’s Market, how Baboonie Tatum has made Rise N’ Grind into a community hub and how Gee Smith is giving the next generation the skills and tools they need to succeed over at Gee’s Clippers.
There was plenty of hope, energy and determination to go around that day. But one thing I kept hearing was how folks are deeply worried that Washington is still working to take their health care away.
For so many of us, health care is deeply personal. It’s personal for each of us with a family member with a pre-existing condition like cancer or diabetes. It’s personal for every mother, especially when insurance companies try to label a previous pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. And it’s personal for me too.
I was raised by my grandparents, who always worked hard to provide me so much. When I was nine years old, I was hospitalized for three months with a serious illness similar to spinal meningitis. My grandparents sacrificed so much to get me care and I recovered, but I was forever stamped with that pre-existing condition label. No matter how hard they looked, my grandparents couldn’t find me the health care coverage I needed. They were working so hard to make sure I had health care, but the system was stacked up against them.
An experience like that never leaves you. That’s why I worked with President Obama to make sure the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
People could now trust that when they needed that insurance, it would be there. No longer could insurers rake in premiums from hardworking people only to deny them services based on a pre-existing condition.
We worked hard to try to get Washington to start working for Wisconsin families, and not for big insurance companies who want to make a quick buck. And I’ve worked hard in Congress with my close friend and ally Gwen Moore to make sure those pre-existing condition protections are never taken away.
But powerful special interests, and their wealthy and well-connected lobbyists, are pushing hard to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and undermine our protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress have not given up on their health care repeal efforts and they are currently working to sabotage our health care markets, spiking costs for working families across the country.
My opponent in this November’s election, State Senator Leah Vukmir, has pledged to join in this effort to take Wisconsinites’ health care away. In Madison, she has supported Scott Walker’s efforts to put limits on BadgerCare and food stamps. Now, she wants to bring that backwards agenda to Washington.
In 2017, we were just one vote away from the Affordable Care Act being completely repealed. If Leah Vukmir was in the Senate, President Trump would have gotten his way. Our pre-existing condition protections would have been gutted. Costs would have skyrocketed, especially for older Wisconsinites according to the AARP. The Affordable Care Act would have been repealed and families across Milwaukee would have paid the price.
That’s what’s at stake here. We could have Washington act to hurt Milwaukee, or we can move forward to achieve progress. It goes beyond protecting the Affordable Care Act. We have to do more now to lower health care costs for Wisconsin families with reforms like Medicare for All, Medicare at 55 or making BadgerCare a public option. We need to address rising prescription drug prices by holding by big pharmaceutical corporations accountable when they jack up the prices of insulin and other life-saving drugs. And we need to address the addiction crisis by strengthening investments in community-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs.
When I walk down MLK Drive, or when I stop by coffee shops and stores by my campaign office on North Ave, I meet people who want Washington to start working for them. I consider that my mission. So when it comes to protecting our health care, lowering costs and taking on powerful special interests, I consider that my job. And just like everyone I met this month who is working hard, I am committed to never letting up when it comes to standing up for Wisconsin’s working families.