(This op-ed first ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on November 4th)
Scott Walker and MacIver report wrong on health care
Americans believe everyone deserves access to affordable health care. There is nothing more wrenching than the outrages of our recent past — cancer patients thrown off their health coverage by big insurance companies, young families climbing the economic ladder forced into crippling debt because of an unforeseen illness. These were routine features of American life before the federal health care law.
Given this social consensus that health care is a necessity in the 21st century, it is strange that this simple idea continues to divide the country. The main reason is that conservative opponents of the health care law, rather than cooperating to make it better, are willing to say anything to sabotage reform.
A case in point is an Oct. 26 op-ed by Brett Healy of the MacIver Institute touting a report by his organization that tries to defend the indefensible: Gov. Scott Walker's heedless rejection of federal dollars for BadgerCare. The report spins an amazing web of misleading and contradictory claims.
First, MacIver makes the unbelievable claim that BadgerCare is worthless. It is common sense that prevention works and that costly and life-threatening illnesses are much more likely to be treated effectively when people have reliable health coverage, get regular checkups and screenings and see their doctors during the early signs of illness.
Setting basic common sense on fire, MacIver claims that people on BadgerCare are no better off than those who are uninsured. To believe this, one has to also believe that all the major Wisconsin organizations representing doctors, nurses and hospitals are all wrong, as they strongly support taking the federal funds for BadgerCare.
MacIver compounds this incredible claim with breathtaking contradiction by praising Walker for expanding BadgerCare to more very low-income adults without children (praise Walker does not deserve because it would have happened anyway if he had accepted the federal funds). If MacIver really believes BadgerCare is worthless, why not advocate for abolishing it, and why praise Walker for expanding it?
Second, the MacIver report shreds common sense about health care costs and in the process flunks basic math. MacIver claims that Walker's decision to reject the BadgerCare money saved up to $750 million. Unbelievably, this is not the net impact of Walker's decision; it is the amount of federal money he rejected.
It does not take into account the $521 million extra cost to the state of Walker's plan through 2017, nor does it take into account that Walker's approach forces 87,000 additional people who should have been eligible for BadgerCare onto the new federal marketplace, which costs federal taxpayers $3,000 more per year per enrollee. Once you subtract the losses, as any high school math student would do, it turns out that Walker's plan will cost federal and state taxpayers up to $1.5 billion more during that same time period to cover fewer people.
Such shoddy research and breathtaking contradictions make sense if the goal is not to enlighten public discussion but to confuse and befuddle. The problem is not the health care law. The Affordable Care Act was a necessary step forward, ended outrageous practices such as discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions and can be improved if we work together.
The real barrier to realizing the American value that everyone should have somewhere to go to get affordable coverage, no matter what, is unreasoning ideological opposition from conservatives who will stop at nothing to derail health reform and will say anything to get their way.
Robert Kraig is executive director and Kevin Kane is the lead organizer for Citizen Action of Wisconsin.