Bill Kaplan: Healthcare realities face Speaker Vos

Bill Kaplan: Healthcare realities face Speaker Vos

There is simultaneous hope and danger in ending the pandemic. Although Wisconsin is in the top tier of vaccinations, the crisis is not over. Cases are up significantly nationally and somewhat in Wisconsin. Moreover, more contagious variants are widespread. Masking remains critical. The American Hospital, Medical and Nurses Associations have said “wearing a face mask” is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. JAMA reported: “An evaluation of state policies showed greater declines in daily COVID-19 cases after issuing mask mandates compared with states that did not have mandates.” Over 30 states, including 9 GOP-led states, have mask mandates.

However, Wisconsin’s mask mandate has ceased. Know-nothing GOP legislators and their callous business supporters persuaded the state Supreme Court to overturn Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ effort to protect all Wisconsinites. Furthermore, the decision could cost Wisconsin $50 million per month in federal food assistance. Sherrie Tussler, Hunger Task Force, said: “That’s $50 million that would be spent on Wisconsin food at our grocery stores. It would help food producers. It would help farmers. It would help our struggling dairy industry.”

Instead of shooting himself and Wisconsin in the foot, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos should reverse course. Introduce a bare-bones emergency order bill restoring a mask mandate to protect Wisconsinites, save lives and restore federal food aid. Governor Evers would happily sign. Enough political games, lives are at stake. There are also other healthcare realities from the pandemic to face.

Millions of Americans (thousands of Wisconsinites) lost healthcare coverage during the pandemic and subsequent recession. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was able to help. President Joe Biden reopened enrollment for ACA subsidized private insurance. Well-over 200,000 Americans, including thousands of Wisconsinites, have gained coverage. And, the American Rescue Plan is now making ACA no-cost or affordable private insurance more available to millions of low-income and middle class Americans. The Biden administration is also funding an ad campaign and healthcare navigators to help enrollees. The Wisconsin Stop the COVID Spread coalition could reinforce by alerting Wisconsinites about their new options.

ACA Medicaid expansion also helped to enroll millions in 2020. Moreover, the American Rescue Plan provides a generous financial incentive for the 12 states, including Wisconsin, that never expanded Medicaid. These states are now eligible for a 5 percent boost for their regular Medicaid program for 2 years and a permanent 90 percent federal match for Medicaid expansion. States are listening.

GOP-led Wyoming passed Medicaid expansion in the House. GOP Representative Steve Harshman (former Speaker) after previously opposing 7 times, said: “I’ve had kind of a change of heart, frankly.” Current GOP Speaker Eric Barlow said: “I voted no multiple times on this issue. I’m going to vote yes this time, because I haven’t seen any other solution.” The bill’s narrow loss in a Senate committee vote can’t diminish the House vote’s historic importance. A harbinger for Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin, under GOP Governor Warren Knowles, implemented regular Medicaid early on (1966). Will Vos make Wisconsin the last state to expand Medicaid?

– Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

 

“Building 21st Century Infrastructure” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

“Building 21st Century Infrastructure” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We dive into the exciting details of President Biden’s historic Build Back Better plan released Wednesday. Will it pass? Does it go far enough? Back in Wisconsin politics, we discuss next Tuesday’s Spring General Election and encourage listeners to volunteer this weekend for Jill Underly and local endorsed candidates. The panel evaluates the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision to overturn Gov. Evers’ mask mandate. Is there a valid legal argument or are right-wing justices acting like politicians in robes? Claire updates us on this week’s Citizen Action Healthcare Week of Action focused on important state budget priorities. We also shine a light on Legislative Republican’s sham hearings peddling conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Listen Now – Episode #486
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CONTACT your state legislators in support of our healthcare agenda.

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“Ron Johnson running with Q’Anon” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We look at Sen. Ron Johnson’s lockstep alignment with Trump’s Q’Anon base, and his new found national infamy among moderates and progressives. Has he gone off the deep end or is this smart politics in Trump’s GOP? We discuss next week’s important Healthcare Week of Action focusing on critical healthcare priorities in the state budget. Claire details the events and your opportunity to get involved, including talking to your state legislators. We expose the Legislative Republican effort to downplay the importance of COVID-19 vaccination at a time when health officials are trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated. We close by welcoming Mike Browne, Deputy Director of A Better Wisconsin Together (ABWT) to discuss how two of their identical open records requests to GOP state legislators produce vastly different results, and what is says about transparency in Wisconsin government.

Listen Now – Episode #485
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Sign up for Healthcare Week of Action Lobby Day.

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Bill Kaplan: Circumstances have changed, expand BadgerCare

Amidst the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, retiring Wisconsin GOP state Senator Luther Olsen was prophetic in calling for consideration of expanding BadgerCare (Medicaid) last June: “When you’ve got that kind of money on the table and a lot of other Republican states have taken it, I think you have to look at that. When you change your mind in politics, you have to have a reason to do this. And this is a reason.”

Shortly thereafter voters in GOP-led Missouri and Oklahoma passed binding Medicaid expansion referendums, joining four other GOP-led states which passed similar referendums during the previous administration. Currently, eighteen GOP-led states have Medicaid expansion, and nine of twelve Midwest states.

In February, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Hospital and Medical Associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other national groups issued an extraordinary call for expanding Affordable Care Act private insurance coverage and federal fiscal “incentives for (the twelve) states that have not yet expanded Medicaid … .”: “Achieving universal (healthcare) coverage is particularly critical as we strive to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and work to address longstanding inequities in healthcare access and disparities in health outcomes.” It’s time for their Wisconsin counterparts to listen and act.

Moreover, GOP-led Wyoming is moving forward. State House and Senate legislative committees have approved expanding Medicaid. The effort was led by GOP Representative Steve Harshman, former Speaker of the House, other GOP legislators and the miniscule Democratic caucus.

The Wyoming Star-Tribune editorialized: “So what’s different this time? For one, it seems like Medicaid expansion is here to stay. Thirty-eight states — both red and blue – have taken the plunge. And expansion has now been in place for a decade, surviving three presidential administrations and multiple Supreme Court challenges. … Plus, it could actually make Wyoming money at a time when the state is desperate for a new source of revenue. Due to a change in federal law (American Rescue Plan) the 12 states (including Wisconsin) that haven’t expanded Medicaid would receive a 5 percent boost (for two years) for their traditional Medicaid program (and ninety percent permanent federal match for the Medicaid expansion enrollees).”

Wisconsin implemented traditional Medicaid in 1966 under GOP Governor Warren Knowles. So it has been disheartening that state Republicans left federal money on the table for other states with their refusal to expand BadgerCare. False and scurrilous attacks on Medicaid expansion as “socialism” and “welfare” are widely off the mark. Medicaid is a healthcare program with private providers, covering over 70 million (985,000 in BadgerCare) Americans. The nonpartisan state Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently said that Wisconsin expansion would save the state over $1.6 billion (and cover 90,000 more Wisconsinites).

JAMA has reported that Medicaid expansion “is like a silver bullet for improving U.S. healthcare”: reducing mortality from heart disease, cancer and childbirth; improving racial disparities; reducing uncompensated care; preventing rural hospital closures; helping economic-job growth and lowering the cost of private insurance. Wisconsin will have a healthier and stronger recovery by expanding BadgerCare now. Circumstances have changed.

– Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

“Avoiding target fixation on the filibuster…” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

“Avoiding target fixation on the filibuster…” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We weigh in on two national issues, first the horrific shootings in Georgia that appear to be yet another hate crime against the AAPI community, and the looming battle over the Senate filibuster and the future of the Democratic agenda. We discuss Speaker Vos’s declaration this week that the Legislation will reject the very popular plan to accept available federal money to expand BadgerCare, turning down $1.6 billion dollars supercharged by the rescue package, denying health care to the working poor during and pandemic. Is Vos serious with dozens of potentially vulnerable Republican state legislators weigh their fate heading into redistricting or it a bluff? Vos also plays scrooge yet again, declaring the Assembly is not willing to suspend a one week waiting period for unemployment benefits despite 100% federal funding in the rescue package. In yet another embarrassment, Legislative Republicans shamefully “honor” racist demagogue Rush Limbaugh while refusing to honor Black History Month. In other news, Foxconn, the white elephant of Racine County, says they might make electric cars… or maybe a monorail. Will they ever make anything that Donald Trump and Scott Walker promised in return for billions of state money?

Listen Now – Episode #484
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Senate Democrats plot new effort to gut filibuster but lack votes for major overhaul.
Democrats seize on Biden’s embrace of changing the filibuster.
Joe Manchin just took an important filibuster reform off the table.
Senate Republicans honor Rush Limbaugh and refuse to recognize Black History Month.
Vos says no to plan that would provide Wisconsin with $1.6 billion for health care.
Foxconn said it will announce what will be made at the Wisconsin facility by July.
Vos expresses reservations about again suspending waiting period for unemployment benefits.

Big Vote Coming on the Right to Organize

By: Robert Kraig, Executive Director

At the national level we have more opportunity than we have seen in decades to begin to achieve a just and equitable America. I am asking you to take some quick action on one of the most important advances we can win, the right to organize a union.

As we know in Wisconsin, conservative politicians like Scott Walker use “divide and conquer” tactics to gain power and do the bidding of the wealthy few. This includes attacking the right to organize unions and to collectively bargain, and pitting people against each other based on the color of their skin or where they live. The result is skyrocketing inequality, urban and rural areas with declining opportunity, and horrendous disparities in income and wealth.

We have one of the best opportunities since the New Deal to restore the right to organize. The Protect the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) will be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. With the strong support of President Joe Biden, our most pro-labor president in 50 years, we have a real chance to win this time.

Passing the PRO Act is one of the most important things we can do to advance a bold progressive agenda on everything we care about, from health care to racial justice to climate change.

First, the ability of working people to join unions and collectively bargain for fair pay and working conditions is a fundamental human right. The freedom to join a union helps all working people support their communities and the ones they love because when unions are strong, they set wage standards and make wages more equal to close racial and gender gaps.

Second, restoring the right to organize builds the power of working people to challenge corporate domination, which shifts the balance of power towards progressives. The right and corporate America have done everything they can to demolish unions because there is no precedent for a progressive governing majority that is not backed up by a robust labor movement.

Restoring the right to join a union on a New Deal scale will diversify and energize both American politics and organized labor. The sectors ripe for organizing – retail, fast food, agriculture and food processing, the gig economy, low wage caregivers and paraprofessionals, and the emerging green economy – have the potential to inject into our movement tens of millions organized low wage workers, disproportionately women and people of color who are denied living wages. This will contribute more to economic and political equality than any single governmental action within our reach.

If you agree with me that it is time to restore the right to organize, please take a minute to send an email to your Congressional representative urging them to vote yes on the PRO Act on Wednesday.

If you want more information about the PRO Act, there are excellent resources in the National AFL-CIOs tool kit. Here is the link.

EMAIL Text (for the sender to edit)

Dear Representative [their MOC]

As a member of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, I urge you to support the PRO Act.

The ability of working people to join unions and collectively bargain for fair pay and working conditions is a fundamental human right. The freedom to join a union helps all working people support their communities and the ones they love because when unions are strong, they set wage standards and make wages more equal to close racial and gender wage gaps.

We have one of the best opportunities since the New Deal to restore the right to organize. The Protect the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) will be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. With the strong support of President Joe Biden, our most pro-labor president in 50 years, we have a real chance to win this time.

I hope I can count on you to vote for the PRO Act when it comes before the House of Representatives, and to lend your voice to restoring truly shared prosperity in America.

Signed,

“Busting the filibuster or bust” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

This week the U.S. House passed a landmark voting rights bill, which will could set up the first major filibuster fight in the U.S. Senate. Are progressive Democrats ready for this fight and similar battles on the $15 minimum wage, immigration reform, climate transformation, a major jobs and infrastructure bill, and other key pieces of Biden’s agenda? Will centrist Democratic Senators yield to majority rule by ending the filibuster, or will they block the progressive reform Democrats promised voters? QAnon Ron Johnson appears ready to lead the Senate Republican charge to block COVID relief for Americans, and the FBI shoots down his embarrassing theories about the Capital insurrection. We also preview the upcoming congressional fight for serious labor law reform which starts next week in the House. We close by welcoming State Representative Kristina Shelton and State Representative Francesca Hong’s chief of staff, Nada Elmikashfi, to discuss the new Economic Justice Bill of Rights for All Wisconsinites that was introduced this week.
Listen Now – Episode #482
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Bill Kaplan: Democratic-led House passes COVID-19 relief

Bill Kaplan: Democratic-led House passes COVID-19 relief

The pandemic continues to devastate the U.S., with 28.5+ million cases and 512,000+ deaths. Wisconsin has had over 563,000 cases and 6,400+ deaths. There is hope with vaccinations increasing, but masks and physical distancing remain essential, given the emergence of more contagious virus variants. Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced legislation to greatly increase identification of these mutations to help control more rapid spread.

The virus has also pulverized the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said: “The economic recovery remains uneven … and the path ahead is highly uncertain. There is a long way to go.” Moreover, Powell indicated that the real unemployment rate is “close to 10 percent.” While Wisconsin has a lower jobless rate than some states, hundreds of thousands of jobs are gone. And, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported: 334,000 adult Wisconsinites had “difficulty getting enough food” for their families, 156,000 Wisconsinites are “not caught up on rent” and 1,219,000 Wisconsinites are having “difficulty covering usual household expenses.”

President Joe Biden told governors: “We just have to step up (to the) economic toll (and) address with the same aggressiveness and seriousness of purpose as we do the virus. And that’s what the American Rescue Plan (COVID-19 relief) does.” Polls show most Americans, including many Republicans, support Biden. More than 160 CEO’s told Congress: “The American Rescue Plan provides a framework for coordinated public-private efforts to overcome COVID-19 and to more forward with a new era of inclusive growth. The country’s business community is prepared to work with you to achieve these critical objectives.”

On Saturday morning the Democratic-led House passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) 219-212 along party lines. All Wisconsin Democratic representatives voted yes and all Wisconsin GOP representatives opposed. The bill was passed under the reconciliation process so it can’t be stalled or killed by a Senate filibuster. Earlier, Wisconsin Democratic Representative Ron Kind said: “It’s been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in the United States. (And,) our nation continues to face both a public health and economic crisis due to this pandemic. … This COVID-19 relief package takes meaningful steps to support struggling families, end the public health emergency and get our economy back on track.”

The ARP provides: funding to control COVID-19, $1,400 payments (excludes affluent), extends-enlarges unemployment benefits, enhances Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers, expands Child Tax Credit for child-care expenses, improves retirement security through help for troubled multiemployer pension plans, reduces Affordable Care Act private insurance premiums, funds safe school re-openings, small business relief, aid for farmers, assistance to local-state-tribal governments, and help for food and housing.

The CBPP said: 321,000 Wisconsinites would be helped by EITC expansion, 1,159,000 Wisconsin children would benefit from the Child Tax Credit expansion and 738,000 Wisconsinites would get more food aid. Regrettably, the House bill’s $15 minimum wage provision was overruled by the Senate parliamentarian for the Senate’s reconciliation bill. However, the ARP will accelerate Wisconsin’s health and economic recovery.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995–2009

Ron Johnson & Legislative Republicans embrace conspiracy and voter suppression” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

Ron Johnson & Legislative Republicans embrace conspiracy and voter suppression” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

Sen. Ron Johnson gushed bizarre conspiracy theories during a closely followed Senate hearing on the Capital insurrection, bringing national shame to himself and the Badger State he purports to represent. Is our senior senator off his rocker, or is he making a cynical ploy for the voters of wannabe authoritarian Donald Trump? State Representative Supreme Moore-Omokunde joins us to discuss a new dump of voter suppression bills by legislative Republicans. Has the GOP given up on democracy and majority rule? Claire details the on-going racial inequity in the distribution of COVID vaccines nationally and in Wisconsin. Do politicians have the courage to insist on a just vaccine distribution or is it more business as usual? A new unemployment bill with a poison pill moves in the Legislature and the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage takes center stage in Congressional COVID relief.

Listen Now – Episode #481
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Contact U.S. Rep. Ron Kind to support $15/hour minimum wage in the COVID relief bill.

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“Evers’ BOLD Budget” Battleground Wisconsin Podcast

We discuss the bold two year state budget released this week by Governor Evers which includes major healthcare proposals like a BadgerCare Public Option, Climate reforms, and other major progressive policies. Does the Governor’s move towards the progressive wing of the Democratic Party show the power of public mobilization and organizing? We review Sen. QAnon Ron Johnson’s shameful week denying the armed insurrection on January 6. Is our wayward Senator hell bent on making himself a national laughing stock? Switching to the Biden Administration, we discuss a very important opportunity for progressives to pass an increase in the minimum wage to $15 in the next COVID relief bill. Finally, a new study released Thursday found the U.S. lost a whole year of life expectancy in 2020.

Listen Now – Episode #480
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Attend Citizen Action’s DPI Superintendent candidate interviews on Monday, February 22nd, 6pm. Both candidates have been invited. RSVP

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