Highlighting the Human Face of BadgerCare Expansion

For months now, Citizen Action of Wisconsin has been fighting for BadgerCare expansion. And although expansion did not happen in the budget, we are not done fighting. 

Earlier this summer, Governor Tony Evers, Senator Jon Erpenbach, and Representative Daniel Riemer introduced BadgerCare expansion legislation. We are under no illusion that the bill’s path forward will be easy. So far, Republican legislators have been unwilling to publicly support expansion, even if they are open to the idea. That is why we are redoubling our efforts to highlight the real-life consequences of failing to expand BadgerCare, and the ways in which our neighbors and community would benefit from expansion.

At Citizen Action, we know that the way to move hearts and minds on this important issue is to put the human faces of BadgerCare expansion front and center. Take, for example, the story of our Co-Op Organizer Noah Reif. When the expansion bill was introduced in August, Noah told us her story and explained why she supports expansion: 

“BadgerCare expansion would mean almost 1,400 hard-working Eau Claire County residents would be eligible to receive quality, affordable care. As an individual, I benefited from state health insurance plans when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 2 years old. Simply put, I would not be here if not for Wisconsin’s investment in me and my family. BadgerCare expansion is an opportunity to extend that life-saving investment to other people like me who need it.”

If you have a health care experience that you would like to share with us, please reach out to our organizer Mireya Mercado at Mireya@citizenactionwi.org

Here are some of the ways that BadgerCare expansion would help Wisconsinites:

  • Improve access to preventative care and save lives: Reducing the number of people without insurance means more people can receive preventative care. Not only does this make our health care system more effective and affordable for everyone, but it helps prevent unnecessary deaths – especially those caused by disease, accidents, injuries, and drug abuse.
  • Reduce insurance coverage disparities: The Affordable Care Act cause significant gains in health care coverage among Wisconsinites. However, significant racial disparities in coverage still exist in our state. For example, Latinx Wisconsinites are uninsured at rates three times higher than the state’s White residents. Expanding BadgerCare eligibility to 138% of the Federal Poverty line would go a long way in reducing this disparity.
  • Improve health care coverage for children: When Scott Walker forced tens of thousands of parents off BadgerCare in 2014, the number of uninsured children living above the poverty level increased sharply. Wisconsin was once a national leader in insuring children. With BadgerCare expansion and an investment in children and families, we could be again.
  • Prevent financial hardships for low-income, working adults and families: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that over 80,000 additional adults would be covered by BadgerCare if the program were expanded up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line. Many of the individuals who would benefit from expansion are eligible for marketplace or employer-sponsored insurance under the current system, but cannot afford the premiums, deductibles, or copays of the plans available to them. Every day, people are forced to choose between paying for health care coverage, or necessities like food, housing, and other bills. Choosing health care over other needs can be a terrible financial burden. Expanding BadgerCare would help ease that burden for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

We believe that everyone in Wisconsin ought to receive and be able to afford high-quality health care when they need it. We also know that many people in our community face tremendous barriers to receiving the health care they deserve. At Citizen Action, we are working hard to elevate the needs and voices of those individuals. 

If, like us, you believe that health care is a human right and you want to help us put a human face on this issue, please consider joining one of our Organizing Co-ops.

Bill Kaplan: Health care is on the line

Bill Kaplan: Health care is on the line

Fifty-three percent of Americans view the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “favorably”, an “all-time high” (Kaiser Family Foundation poll, September 13, 2019). Why? The ACA extended comprehensive quality health coverage to over 22 million through ACA affordable private insurance (covers 193,303 Wisconsinites), Medicaid expansion and allowing young adults (under 26) to be covered through their parents’ insurance. And, the ACA guarantees coverage to 52 million, including 852,000 Wisconsinites, with preexisting conditions (Kaiser). Moreover, the ACA lowered out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees. Finally, the ACA reduced uncompensated care, helping both rural and urban hospitals.

However, Trump continues to sabotage the ACA by making it harder to enroll in ACA private insurance: cutting the open enrollment period by half, nearly eliminating advertising, slashing funding for enrollment assistance, ending federal cost-sharing payments and allowing the sale of worthless “junk insurance”. Moreover, Trump is trying to have the ACA declared unconstitutional through a federal lawsuit orchestrated by former Governor Scott Walker. A decision may come soon. And, if all else fails, Trump is counting on being reelected in 2020 with a GOP-led Congress to repeal the ACA.

No surprise then that fewer Americans are insured: “About 27.5 million people, or 8.5 percent of the population lacked health insurance for all of 2018, up from 7.9 percent the year before, the Census Bureau reported … (Wisconsin’s ACA coverage declined from 235,444 in 2017 to 193,303 currently). It was the first (national) increase since the (ACA) took full effect in 2014, and experts said it was at least partly the result of the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the law” (New York Times).

However, not all Republicans have their heads in the sand. 38 states, including 16 GOP-led, have (3 in process) Medicaid expansion. Many in the GOP recognize that ACA Medicaid expansion helps mightily: reduces the uninsured and uncompensated care, keeps rural hospitals open, increases access to treat opioid misuse and substitutes federal for state expenditures, providing jobs and producing savings for roads, transit and schools. In Mississippi, former state Chief Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination supporting Medicaid expansion. He lost in a run-off, but state voters can now vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hood who supports expanding Medicaid, as does Republican Delbert Hosemann, running for lieutenant governor.

Some Wisconsin Republicans get it. GOP state Senator Luther Olsen said: “I honestly think we have to take it (Medicaid expansion federal funding). Whether we do or not, I don’t know. We need to look with an open mind what it does for the state of Wisconsin” (2019). And, GOP state Senator Jerry Petrowski said: “I believe that we could have taken the (Medicaid expansion) money, however I could not find enough votes to get it done” (2014). Wisconsin voters should encourage GOP legislators to do right: ring the Madison Capitol Square with posters of GOP governors and legislators from around the nation on why they supported Medicaid expansion for their states.

And, vote! Health care is on the line.

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

Lower Drug Prices Now!

Prescription drugs are integral to our health care system and most medical treatments. People across Wisconsin depend on prescription drugs, whether in their everyday lives or for lifesaving treatments. And yet, recent years have seen the prices of many prescription drugs skyrocket. Prescription drug prices jumped 10.5 percent over in just the first six months of 2019–an increase four times greater than inflation.

High prices put essential drugs out of reach for many Americans. Nearly three-in-ten people in the United States report not taking medicine as prescribed because of the cost. This includes not filling a prescription, taking an inappropriate alternative treatment, and cutting pills in half or skipping doses.  

Furthermore, an estimated quarter of people with diabetes lower or skip doses because they cannot afford the insulin that keeps them alive. 

The consequences of these actions are dire. Nationally, lack of medication adherence accounts for up to half of all treatment failures and one-quarter of hospital and nursing home admissions.

While cost of the four most popular types of insulin tripled within a decade and forced patients to ration care, Eli Lily–the nation’s largest insulin producer–continued to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medication while paying $0 in federal income taxes under the Trump tax law.

Drug companies are more interested in preserving their profits and monopoly power than our health and well-being. Drug companies spent $172 million on lobbying in 2018–more than any other industry–to protect their monopolies and protect their power to dictate prices. In fact, Trump’s new North American Free Trade Agreement deal (NAFTA 2.0) could raise drug prices on many widely used drugs, including vaccines and some newer cancer treatments, by preventing competition from generic drugs and handcuffing Congress’ ability to enact policies to reduce prices.

Prescription drug companies often justify their soaring prices with claims that investment in new, life-saving medicines costs money. But that claim is false. Big Pharma companies spend far more on marketing than they do on research and development. Instead, it is taxpayers like us who fund the development of new drugs. Taxpayer-funded research through National Institutes of Health contributed to every one of the 210 drugs approved between 2010 and 2016, and the U.S. federal government is the world’s largest funder of biomedical research. 

Yet, many Americans cannot afford the life-saving medicine their tax dollars help to develop. 

That’s why Citizen Action of Wisconsin is a proud member of the national Lower Drug Prices Now campaign. The campaign demands that Congress put people over Pharma profits by adopting comprehensive reform of the pharmaceutical industry. 

If you want to join our fight against Big Pharma, join your local Citizen Action of Wisconsin co-op!

Wisconsin’s Caregiver Crisis

Between 2016 and 2026, the direct care workforce will grow more than any single occupation in the country, and more than 7.8 million direct care job openings will need to be filled in the United States. In Wisconsin, the number of Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide positions are both projected to increase by 30 percent, requiring an additional 21,300 workers.

However, direct care jobs often offer low compensation, no paid leave or guaranteed health care, and minimal training or support. In 2018, the national median hourly wage for a direct care worker was only $11.83, less than $25,000 per year for a full-time worker. But 1 in 3 workers worked only part-time or part-year, making the national median income for direct care workers only $19,100. And, only about half of all caregivers receive health insurance from their employer.

In Wisconsin, the median hourly wages of Home Health and Personal Care workers are only $11.66 and $11.43, respectively.

As a result, many workers leave direct care or choose not to pursue these jobs at all.

Devaluing of these critical positions also reinforces race, class, and gender economic disparities. Of the 4.3 million direct care workers in the United States, 87% are women, 57% are people of color, and 25% are immigrants.

The growing demand for caregiving and poor quality of direct care jobs has created a shortage of care workers and unaffordability of caregiving services. However, the State of Wisconsin can ensure that long-term care services and supports remain affordable and accessible to people who need them through strategic investments. Citizen Action of Wisconsin supports investing in caregivers through:

  • Higher, family-sustaining wages

Many direct care workers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Nationally, low wages are a primary reason cited by direct care workers for leaving these roles—particularly in economically stable times, when candidates for direct care jobs might instead choose to pursue less arduous, better-paying jobs in other industries. Higher wages are needed to attract job-seekers, retain works who would otherwise leave the profession, and improve the financial security of workers.

  • Guaranteed health care coverage

Nationally, fewer than half of direct care workers outside of nursing homes receive health insurance from their employer. Purchasing health insurance on the private market can be cost prohibitive for workers earning less than a living wage. Guaranteed health care coverage would raise the value of direct care professions and help attract and retain workers.

  • Guaranteed paid leave

Guaranteed paid leave for direct care workers would also increase the desirability of these jobs. Care workers would also be able to afford to take time off from work for their own families’ care needs, such as caring for an ailing relative or new child.

  • Pathways for professional development

Career advancement opportunities in direct care enable workers to take on more expansive and satisfying roles, which can reduce turnover and make the job more competitive with other comparable industries. Additionally, some research has found that when direct care workers take on advanced roles, they improve care for clients, reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, and potentially save health care costs. Advanced roles can be created to: aide clients with care coordination and transitions; support clients with complex chronic conditions; assist with clinical observation and reporting; educate clients on health promotion and medication adherence; mentor newly hired aides; and help with entry-level training.

  • Enhanced training and professional support for workers

A well-prepared direct care workforce will ensure that workers have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to succeed in their roles—and that older people and people with disabilities receive high-quality supports. Increased funding for training programs and professional supports from the state can help care workers and agencies feel more respected and valued.

 

If you want to support our work on this important issue, please join one of our organizing co-ops!

 

National data and content from “Workforce Matters: The Direct Care Workforce and State-Based LTSS Social Insurance Programs” by Robert Espinoza, Stephen Campbell, and Kezia Scales, PHI and Caring Across Generations, 2019. Wisconsin data retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on September 4, 2019.
Bill Kaplan: GOP health care time bomb

Bill Kaplan: GOP health care time bomb

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a huge success. 11.4 million, including 205,118 Wisconsinites, have gained private insurance coverage. Most receive federal financial assistance to pay insurance premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs. Another 12 million now have health coverage through Medicaid expansion. But none in Wisconsin because of GOP intransigence. Moreover, the ACA provides strong consumer protections for 52 million, including 852,000 Wisconsinites, from being denied health coverage or charged higher rates for preexisting conditions. Finally, without the ACA, uncompensated health care would increase by $50.2 billion, including $412 million in Wisconsin (Urban Institute).

Nonetheless, Trump and the GOP continue to try to roll back the ACA with a sabotage campaign: deep cuts in ACA advertising and outreach; a much shorter enrollment period; elimination of federal payment of out-of-pocket health costs; allowing the sale of useless bare-bones insurance; and eliminating the tax penalty (individual mandate) for not having health coverage. However, it gets worse.

Two defeated run-of-the-mill Wisconsin GOP politicians, former Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel, orchestrated a federal lawsuit to have the ACA declared unconstitutional. A ticking health care time bomb. After they lost reelection, a federal Texas judge struck down the ACA in December 2018. The Trump administration had declined to defend the ACA, while calling for the court to eliminate all ACA protections for preexisting health conditions.

Suddenly, in March 2019, the Trump administration called on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to declare the entire ACA unconstitutional. The American Hospital Association said: “The position is unprecedented and unsupported by the law or the facts. Millions of Americans would lose the coverage they have relied on for years. … Medicaid expansion would be reversed and protections for people with chronic and preexisting conditions would cease to exist.” Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin said: “Here is the Republicans’ plan for your health care: … Trump and Attorney General Barr are working to win a lawsuit that would repeal health insurance (and consumer protections) for millions … .”

In April 2019, Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers withdrew Wisconsin from the lawsuit. However, Trump and other GOP-led states have continued to support the lawsuit in the federal appeals court, while Democratic-led states and GOP Attorneys General Timothy Fox of Montana and David Yost of Ohio defended the ACA. Fox and Yost said: “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall. But the District Court’s ruling is wrong, and its errors threaten harm to millions … .” Wisconsin congressional Democrats have denounced the GOP lawsuit, while Wisconsin congressional Republicans have refused to defend the ACA.

Make no mistake: the Trump-GOP lawsuit is a ticking time bomb. Health care-legal expert Timothy Jost said: “There seems to be a real possibility … that the Fifth Circuit may affirm the lower court’s judgment (ACA is unconstitutional). It will then again be up to the Supreme Court to sort things out. … (This) will likely become a major issue in the 2020 election.”

Wisconsin Republicans brought us to this man-made disaster.

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

Bill to accept federal Medicaid money to be introduced today in Wauwatosa

Bill to accept federal Medicaid money to be introduced today in Wauwatosa

Today, August 5th state legislators who support accepting federal Medicaid money to expand BadgerCare will introduce new legislation to save the state money and cover tens of thousands more Wisconsinites with health coverage.

The event is at the Wauwatosa Public Library at 12:15pm. If you want to attend arrive by Noon.

We are encouraging everyone to contact their state legislators and tell them to co-sponsor.  You can call your legislators at: 1-800-362-9472. 

Please share stories about the legislation on social media next week and encourage your family and friends to call their representatives.

Accepting the federal money remains extremely popular with the public and a common sense thing to do. We need to keep pressure on state legislators and will continue to work to make accepting the Medicaid money a reality.

Do you have a healthcare access story?
We want to hear from you. Contact: Claire.Zautke@citizenactiowi.org

Health Care is a Human Right and a Public Good


Our current healthcare system is driven by profit and governed by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, rather than by the people. In calling for Medicare for All we are fighting to shift power away from insurance and drug corporations, move health care resources into the public sphere (and people into public coverage), increase community control, and combat racial, national, and gender exclusion. Fighting for universal health care allows us to put corporate power, commodification, immigrant exclusion, and racial and gender inequity at the center of the debate.

We believe that health care should be:

  • In public hands
  • Driven by our health, not profits
  • Simple, universal, and available
  • Fully resourced
  • Inclusive and comprehensive (including medicines, medical equipment, vision/dental/hearing care, reproductive care, mental health care, harm reduction and treatment for substance misuse, preventive and long-term care, and homecare)
  • Equitable across race, gender, ability, and region
  • Inclusive of care for the people who care for us

Under Medicare for All:

  • Health care will be financed in a way that benefits us. We all pay into a system that is managed by one entity. Instead of lining the pockets of insurance company executives or funding company advertising, our money goes where it should: toward our health care.
  • We all participate in the decisions that affect our health. Medicare for All takes the power from insurance companies and puts it in our hands and the hands of our democratically elected representatives. Insurance companies would not be allowed to determine how much we pay for health care services and which services we can get.
  • Everyone receives quality health care. A universal health care system guarantees universal coverage. There are no more financial barriers. This promotes equality and equity in our health care system, meaning everyone has a fair shot at being healthy.
  • We will have freedom of choice in our health care. There will no longer be doctor’s offices that don’t take your insurance. You can choose which doctor you see or which hospital you go to.

 

To join our fight for universal and high-quality health care, become a member of your local co-op!

 

Citizen Action members help set agenda for health care

Citizen Action members help set agenda for health care, and show growing grassroots power, making tens of thousands of door knocks and phone calls

Statewide: Years of grassroots organizing by Citizen Action of Wisconsin members across the state helped build healthcare into the dominant issue in the 2018 elections. The election results create a mandate for Governor Evers to pursue Medicaid Expansion, a BadgerCare Public Option, Long Term Care Reform, and meaningful action on runaway prescription drug prices.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin members have been working to inject health care into Wisconsin elections for over a decade, and started campaigning on the dominant wedge issue of pre-existing conditions discrimination in the 2012 election cycle, and every election cycle moving forward.

Citizen Action & Nancy Pelosi Reveal Trump’s Health Care Sabotage

Friday, July 27th

Last Saturday, Citizen Action held a successful news event with U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Milwaukee area healthcare professionals and advocates to fight back against Donald Trump’s escalating sabotage of health coverage. The event featured a number of first-line caregivers and health professionals in addition to Nancy Pelosi. U.S. Representative Gwen Moore was scheduled to appear but was unable to attend due to a personal medical issue.

The event also included the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, Independence First, and League of Progressive Seniors. Read More