Emergency Powers Give Wisconsin Authority to use BadgerCare to Fight Coronavirus

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Emergency Powers Give Wisconsin Authority to use BadgerCare to Fight Coronavirus

Federal Emergency Declaration opens new avenues to guarantee everyone is tested and treated without cost sharing, fully covering all uninsured Wisconsinites

Statewide: Under pressure from a number of states seeking to stem the alarming speed of novel coronavirus transmission, the federal government late last week issued emergency regulations that would allow Wisconsin to use BadgerCare to guarantee that everyone in Wisconsin has health coverage during the pandemic. This would dramatically improve Wisconsin’s odds for slowing the coming pandemic by removing a major barrier to seeking testing and treatment. The federal government took similar steps during the H1N1 epidemic and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

If Wisconsin acts boldly and swiftly, this federal declaration gives the Wisconsin state government new power to slow the speed of the pandemic, and potentially save tens of thousands of lives. According to public health experts, one of the most critical things we can do to protect both the afflicted and the general public is to maximize the number of people with symptoms who immediately seek testing and treatment. COVID-19 is so contagious that delays in seeking medical care can lead to the infection of thousands of additional people. After we have tested and treated everyone with symptoms, and the federal government has addressed the shortage of testing kits, it is essential to test and treat community wide, because the disease is spread by seemingly healthy people without symptoms.

The fear of financially crippling health care bills in the profit-centered American health care system is a grave risk not only to affected individuals and their families but the entire community because it actually discourages people from seeking medical care.

The Coronavirus Relief Act passed by Congress this week guarantees free testing for COVID 19, which is a critical step forward, but is silent on the cost of any treatment for that disease or any other underlying illnesses discovered by testing. Without free treatment, many will be deterred from seeking medical help – especially people who lack health coverage, a rapidly expanding group in an economy experiencing mass layoffs!

A survey of 1,000 Wisconsinites in every corner of the state released last week by Citizen Action, in partnership with the Health Value Hub and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that nearly half of Wisconsinites have gone without needed medical care because of fear of the cost in the last year! This dangerous situation will be intensified by the large number of people losing their income during the pandemic. The affordability crisis in the American healthcare system is dangerous in normal times; during a pandemic, it is a deadly threat to the health of everyone in Wisconsin!

A preliminary analysis of the new emergency rules by Citizen Action of Wisconsin has identified two major steps Wisconsin can take to use BadgerCare to contain COVID-19. We also propose a third vital step that Wisconsin can take to make sure those who have private health insurance will not be deterred from seeking treatment due to unaffordable copays and deductibles associated with even the best American health insurance plans. Many of these proposals are already being pursued by other states. (The Evers Administration may be developing plans internally that are not yet public which include some of these proposals.)

Step 1: Wisconsin has the authority to propose waivers to the federal government, which can be approved within days of submission. These waivers can make it much easier to enroll in BadgerCare and to retain it, including online and phone enrollment, extension of renewal deadlines, suspension of cancellations, and elimination of barriers such as premiums, copays, work requirements, and many other administrative hurdles. 

Critically, Wisconsin could adopt a “presumptive eligibility” policy that allows medical providers, enrollment staff, schools, and community health centers to enroll people in BadgerCare without any income test if they appear eligible. This is especially helpful in an environment where there are mass layoffs and it would be time consuming to confirm that a family was eligible when unemployment insurance claims are likely to overwhelm the state’s processing capacity. The Coronavirus Relief Act which passed Congress this week increases the federal share of Medicaid costs in Wisconsin to 65.5%, offsetting part of the state cost for expanding BadgerCare enrollment.

Step 2: Wisconsin should immediately expand BadgerCare by accepting the Medicaid Expansion authorized and funded by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Without ACA Medicaid Expansion, “presumptive eligibility” will not work for many adults who do not fit into specific Medicaid eligible categories and are (or appear to be) above the federal poverty line. In addition, as Wisconsin is losing $340 million in the current state budget because it turned down the ACA Medicaid expansion funding, this revenue could immediately be deployed in the fight to contain COVID-19. Accepting Medicaid Expansion would allow Wisconsin to use presumptive eligibility to get the state close to universal health coverage and to reassure the public that cost should not deter them from seeking COVID-19 testing and treatment. It would also defray some and perhaps all of the state’s costs for increased enrollment resulting from all of the emergency measures we propose.

Step 3: The massive level of cost sharing in most private health insurance plans also deters people from seeking COVID-19 testing and treatment, endangering public health. Our recent statewide survey showed that almost half of respondents had avoided medical treatment and services in the last year, and most of them had health insurance coverage. A number of states already mandated that health insurance plans cover COVID-19 testing and treatment with no consumer cost sharing. So far, Wisconsin has only recommended that insurers suspend copays and deductibles. It would be prudent for Wisconsin to actually ban cost sharing as a danger to public health. If this creates too much of a burden on health insurance and self-insured plans, Wisconsin could also outlaw hospital price gouging by requiring them to accept Medicare rates for all treatment that results from a COVID-19 test. There is no justification for hospitals and medical providers to charge unreasonable prices for their services during this state and national emergency.

“We need bold leadership now more than ever. This unprecedented public health emergency focuses our attention on the reality that we are all interconnected, and that leaving people out of our healthcare system risks the lives of everyone in the community,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who could otherwise have avoided infection may be needlessly put at risk if we don’t come together to assure that no one in Wisconsin delays or avoids treatment because they can’t afford the high cost of healthcare.”

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Ron Johnson’s Opposition to Paid Sick Days Threatens to Delay or Weaken Coronavirus Response

For Immediate Release: March 16, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Ron Johnson’s Opposition to Paid Sick Days Threatens to Delay or Weaken Coronavirus Response

Statewide: Over the weekend Senator Ron Johnson’s made national headlines for his vocal opposition to sick leave provisions in the Coronavirus Relief Bill which passed the U.S. House of Representatives Friday with the full support of the Trump Administration. The bill is so essential to public health during this unprecedented global emergency, it passed on Friday on a bipartisan basis by an overwhelming vote of 363-40. The bill is now pending in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Johnson may be carrying water for major right-wing business interests such as Club for Growth and National Federal of Independent Businesses, who are putting their ideological opposition to paid family leave over the safety of the American people. According to news reports, Johnson may have influenced 4 GOP Congressmen from Wisconsin who voted against the coronavirus bill on Friday.

The paid sick days provision is designed to make sure that workers do not risk their jobs when they do the right thing by staying home when they are sick, to take care of loved ones, or to look after their children who are without school or child care. Johnson’s preferred solution is unemployment insurance, which means workers would be forced to choose between job loss and helping contain the coronavirus.

“Time is of the essence in containing a pandemic. Despite the loopholes in this bill that exempt too many big corporate employers, passing the Coronavirus Relief Bill immediately and as written is a public health necessity,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The bill also includes free testing, which is critical to containing the spread of this life-threatening virus. The clock is ticking, and if Senator Johnson’s obstruction delays or even waters down the bill, it could risk hundreds of thousands of lives.”

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Health Care Value Survey Shows Wisconsinites Concerned About Affordability and Quality of Care: Provides both statewide and regional data

For Immediate Release: March 11, 2020
Contacts: Claire Zautke, (414) 940-3375, claire@citizenactionwi.org
Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Health Care Value Survey Shows Wisconsinites Concerned About Affordability and Quality of Care

Provides both statewide and regional data

Statewide: Nationally, consumer worry about health care affordability is well documented but now—for the first time—a new survey reveals how affordability concerns and ideas for action play out in Wisconsin. Altarum Healthcare Value Hub, a national nonpartisan research organization supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in partnership with Citizen Action of Wisconsin, administered a Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) in Wisconsin. The survey of more than 1,000 Wisconsin adults was conducted from October 29, 2019 to November 6, 2019. Among its results, the Survey found that:

  • More than half (53%) experienced healthcare affordability burdens in the past year.
  • Four out of five (79%) are worried about affording healthcare in the future.
  • Nearly half (47%) of people who needed health care during the year encountered one or more cost barriers to getting care, including skipped needed dental care (31%), delayed going to the doctor or receiving a procedure (27%), and did not fill a prescription (18%).
  • Health care was listed as a top issue that the government should address in the upcoming year by 73% of respondents. The next most frequently cited issue was the economy, selected by only 43% of respondents.
  • Across party lines, they expressed strong support for government-led solutions.

Dr. Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which brought Altarum’s CHESS to Wisconsin, offers the following quote:

“This devastating new report on the state of health care affordability in Wisconsin should be a wake-up call to Wisconsin lawmakers, who in the current legislative session devoted virtually no attention to addressing the skyrocketing cost of medical services, medications, and health insurance. The extensive opinion research that serves as the basis for this report is the first deep dive in many years into the lived experience of Wisconsinites in coping with our health care system. It establishes beyond all doubt that there is an affordability crisis in every region of the state. This crisis has reached a breaking point and demands bold and immediate action from state government. There are many critical data points in this report, which should be must-reading for all state policymakers. The top two, stunning findings that jump out for me the most are that nearly half of all Wisconsinites have gone without care or medications because they could not afford it, and that health care affordability is by far the top public issue, easily beating the economy and taxes.”

Below are links to Data Briefs with statewide and regional survey results.

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U.S. Supreme Court Threatening Health Care of Millions


For Immediate Release–March 2, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

U.S. Supreme Court Threatening Health Care of Millions

Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, marketplace health insurance, at grave risk of having coverage taken away by right-wing federal judges

Statewide: Today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case being pushed by the Trump Administration that could take health care away from millions of people in America. The court will take oral arguments in October, and likely rule in early 2021, on a case that seeks to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). The timing cynically capitulates to the Trump Administration’s politically-motivated request to move until after the 2020 election what would be one of the most unpopular decisions in American history.

In December, a Republican dominated Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled in favor of the Trump administration in Texas vs. United States, striking down the ACA’s individual mandate. President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr are using the case as a vehicle for invalidating the entire ACA, including the popular protections against pre-existing condition discrimination.

If the ACA was struck down the following provisions would be eliminated from federal law:

      • Guaranteeing coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, impacting an estimated 852,000 to 2.436 million Wisconsinites.
      • Prohibition of price discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions. In Wisconsin, without this protection a patient with a pregnancy could be charged $17,060 more, and someone with metastatic cancer could be charged $140,510 more.
      • Free coverage of preventative care such as mammograms and colonoscopies for 2,804,258 Wisconsinites.
      • Mental health parity.
      • Prohibition of gender discrimination in coverage and pricing.
      • Prohibition of age discrimination in pricing, the so-called “age tax.”
      • Prohibition of lifetime and annual care limits.
      • Protections against junk health care plans by requiring that all essential health benefits be covered.
      • Substance abuse coverage.
      • Resources and funds to hold insurance companies accountable to regulation.

In addition, 153,000 Wisconsinites would have their health coverage taken away if the ACA was struck down, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

Citizen Action is urging lawmakers to codify the ACA’s consumer protections and health insurance regulations in state law to protect Wisconsinites in the event of a damaging U.S. Supreme Court decision. Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Sen. Jon Erpenbach, is a huge step in this direction. Citizen Action is also urging lawmakers to create a plan, triggered by an adverse court decision striking down the ACA, to replace marketplace plans for people who buy insurance on their own and the federal subsidies that make them more affordable.

“The nullification of the ACA by right-wing judges is a predictable human-made disaster that would wreak havoc with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “We urge state lawmakers to take action to put the popular federal protections against pre-existing condition discrimination and other insurance industry abuses in state law, and beyond the reach of activist federal judges.”

 

Citizen Action endorses Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive


For Immediate Release: January 29, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Citizen Action endorses Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive

Announces more key endorsements in Milwaukee area spring elections

Milwaukee: Today Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide membership group headquartered in Milwaukee, announced its endorsement of state Senator Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive. Additional spring election endorsements we would like to highlight include candidates in three key Milwaukee Common Council races: State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa in the 8th district; Marina Dimitrijevic in the 14th district; and Fred Royal in the 7th district.

In the hotly contested Milwaukee County Executive race, Citizen Action members and board leaders decided that Senator Larson, who is a Citizen Action member, made the strongest and most comprehensive case for bold reform of county government. “Chris Larson would be the first progressive Milwaukee County Executive in modern history,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Local Citizen Action members are particularly excited about Senator Larson’s strong support for using the power of county government to address the climate crisis in a way that provides living wage jobs for people currently locked out of economic opportunity.”

While we are endorsing Larson, Citizen Action members also were impressed with Milwaukee County Executive candidate State Representative David Crowley, and believe he would also be a solid progressive leader for Milwaukee County.

In the 14th Common Council District, Citizen Action is endorsing Marina Dimitrijevic. “As our County Supervisor, Marina Dimitrijevic has led the way to reduce the county’s environmental footprint,” said Kraig. “She authored Milwaukee County’s Greenprint and her plan to eliminate forever plastics will make an enormous impact in keeping our waterways clean. At City Hall, I know she will be a partner in our efforts to win a Milwaukee Green New Deal which dramatically reduces community-wide greenhouse emissions and creates family supporting jobs for those who need them most.”

In the 8th Common Council District, Citizen Action is endorsing State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, who is a member of our board of directors. “In this majority people of color southside district we believe JoCasta will do a tremendous job of bringing the diverse voices of the area to City Hall,” said Kraig. “We also believe that Zamarripa will be a strong progressive leader who will fight for Citizen Action’s climate and racial equity agenda.”

While Citizen Action is endorsing JoCasta Zamarripa, members and board leaders concluded that her opponent Justin Bielinski is aligned with our values, and also would be a positive voice at City Hall.

Citizen Action also made endorsements in a number of other Milwaukee Common Council and County Board races, as well as the Milwaukee Comptroller and Wauwatosa mayoral races.

Milwaukee area endorsements 

  • Milwaukee County Executive
    • Chris Larson
  • Milwaukee Comptroller
    • Alex Brower
  • Wauwatosa Mayor
    • Dennis McBride

City of Milwaukee Common Council

  • District 5
    • Nikiya Dodd
  • District 7
    • Fred Royal
  • District 8
    • JoCasta Zamarripa
  • District 11
    • Peter Burgelis
  • District 14
    • Marina Dimitrijevic

Milwaukee County Board

  • District 1
    • Liz Sumner
  • District 2
    • Sequanna Taylor
  • District 12
    • Sylvia Ortiz-Velez
  • District 15
    •   Eddie Cullen

The Primary Election is Tuesday, February 18th and the General Election is Tuesday, April 7th.

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Citizen Action endorses Ed Fallone and Jill Karofsky for Supreme Court


For Immediate Release: January 29, 2020
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Citizen Action of Wisconsin endorses Fallone and Karofsky for WI Supreme Court race

Milwaukee: In the critical Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s board voted to endorse both Ed Fallone and Jill Karofsky.

After interviews which included members from across the state, Citizen Action member and board leaders concluded that both would be independent judges who will fairly interpret and apply the law for everyone, regardless of their race, their income, or where they live. Their judicial integrity is in sharp contrast to the current Supreme Court that regularly twists the law to rubber stamp the priorities of a single political party, and caters its decisions to the interests of the rich, the powerful, and the well connected.

“Both Ed Fallone and Jill Karofsky would make excellent and impartial Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who give every case a fair hearing and render decisions based on rigorous legal interpretation not ideology,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Fallone or Karofsky would be a breath of fresh air on a Supreme Court where the majority regularly puts politics and ideology ahead of the fair interpretation of the law. Does any fair minded person doubt that the Supreme Court majority would have struck down the lame duck session laws, if the shoe was on the other foot and a newly elected Republican governor’s power were curtailed by a Democratic Legislature?”

Citizen Action is a statewide membership group with chapters (organizing co-operatives) in Metro Milwaukee, Green Bay/Fox Valley, Wausau, Eau Claire, and the Driftless Area. Citizen Action’s top issues are health care reform, a just climate transition that creates living wage jobs for communities of color and rural regions that need them most, and protecting and expanding our democracy. Citizen Action was a lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit that struck down Governor Walker’s restrictions on early voting, and the lame duck session attempt to restore this attack on democracy.

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Federal Court Decision Threatens Health Coverage in Wisconsin

For Immediate Release–December 19, 2019

Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, marketplace health insurance, at grave risk of having coverage taken away by right-wing federal judges

Milwaukee: Late yesterday, the unending drive by conservative politicians to rip health coverage away from millions Americans, and re-legalize insurance discrimination, came a step closer to tearing apart the health care system. A Republican dominated Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled in favor of the Trump administration in Texas vs. United States, striking down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Bar are using the case as a vehicle for invalidating the entire ACA, including the popular protections against pre-existing condition discrimination. The judges, both Republican appointees, remanded the decision on the other elements of the ACA to the same right-wing lower court judge who already struck it down last year. 

This morning, Citizen Action of Wisconsin teamed up with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Protect Our Care to hold a media briefing on the implications of this development for Wisconsin. You can listen to the entire media call here. Speakers made the case that judicial action invalidating the ACA is a clear and present danger.

In addition, Citizen Action is urging lawmakers to codify the ACA’s consumer protections and health insurance regulations in state law to protect Wisconsinites in the event of a damaging U.S. Supreme Court decision. Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Sen. Jon Erpenbach, is a huge step in this direction. Citizen Action is also urging lawmakers to create a plan, triggered by an adverse court decision striking down the ACA, to replace marketplace plans for people who buy insurance on their own and the federal subsidies that make them more affordable.

If the ACA was struck down the following provisions would be eliminated from federal law:

      • Guaranteeing coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, impacting an estimated 852,000 to 2.436 million Wisconsinites.
      • Prohibition of price discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions. In Wisconsin without this protection a patient with a pregnancy could be charged $17,060 more, and someone with metastatic cancer could be charged $140,510 more.
      • Free coverage of preventative care such as mammograms and colonoscopies for 2,804,258 Wisconsinites.
      • Mental health parity.
      • Prohibition of gender discrimination in coverage and pricing.
      • Prohibition of age discrimination in pricing, the so-called “age tax.” 
      • Prohibition of lifetime and annual care limits.
      • Protections against junk health care plans by requiring that all essential health benefits be covered.
      • Substance abuse coverage.
      • Resources and funds to hold insurance companies accountable to regulation.

In addition, 153,000 Wisconsinites would have their health coverage taken away if the ACA was struck down, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute. 

Milwaukee resident Megan McGee, who lives with pre-existing conditions, described her reaction to the ruling and the threat to the ACA: “I’ve had back problems and birth complications. I’m told there are no long-term effects of either. But will insurers care? Without the ACA, could I get kicked off my insurance plan? When I think about the possibility of the ACA being overturned, I don’t worry about one thing. I worry about many things: what will happen to me, my 2 year old, a family member who is mentally ill, and my 2 employees.”

“The federal court nullification of the ACA is a predictable human-made disaster that would wreak havoc with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “We urge state lawmakers to take action to put the popular federal protections against pre-existing condition discrimination and other insurance industry abuses in state law, and beyond the reach of activist federal judges.”

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Citizen Action Statement on Introduction of National Prescription Drug Reform (H.R. 3)


For Immediate Release: September 19, 2019
Contact: Robert Kraig, robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org, (414) 322-5324

Citizen Action Statement on Introduction of National Prescription Drug Reform (H.R. 3)

photo by: www.weisspaarz.com.

Milwaukee: Today U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a bold new proposal to curb prescription medicine prices through negotiations, new penalties for non-compliant drug companies and international price indexing. Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig made the following statement in response to the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) announcement:

“We’ve heard a lot of promises from politicians about lowering drug prices, but so far there’s been limited meaningful action at the Federal level. Speaker Pelosi’s H.R. 3 is a major step in the right direction. It would require prescription drug corporations to actually negotiate drug prices with government or pay a penalty. The proposal also levels the playing field between the cost of medicines in the United States and other comparable nations, where people pay much less for the same drugs. While it doesn’t solve every problem, this bill is great news for millions of people in our state and around the country who struggle to afford medicine because the drug corporations have kept prices high and put medicine out of reach for patients. Every lawmaker in Congress should stand up in support of this critical first step to comprehensive prescription drug reform.”

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Applauds BadgerCare Expansion Legislation


Statewide:
Today, Governor Tony Evers, State Senator Jon Erpenbach, and State Representative Daniel Riemer announced their intention to introduce legislation to accept additional federal money to expand BadgerCare at a news conference in Wauwatosa. GOP legislators stripped this provision from the Governor’s budget during the Joint Finance Committee process.

“It’s time for leadership of the Legislature to put the people of Wisconsin first,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “BadgerCare expansion will provide over 80,000 Wisconsinites who do not receive health insurance at work with affordable coverage, enabling them to receive life-saving treatment and redirect their hard-earned money to other necessities.”

Regional Citizen Action organizers also spoke to the benefits of BadgerCare expansion across Wisconsin.

Eau Claire: “BadgerCare expansion would mean almost 1,400 hard-working Eau Claire County residents would be eligible to receive quality, affordable care,” said Citizen Action of Wisconsin Organizer Noah Reif. “In addition, the expansion would bring millions of dollars in federal healthcare investments back to northwest Wisconsin. As an individual, I have benefited from state health insurance plans when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 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.”

Wausau: “In rural Wisconsin, you often hear folks claim that we send our money to Madison and we don’t get our fair share back,” said Citizen Action of Wisconsin Organizer  Joel Lewis. “Not accepting the Medicaid money is similar in that we sent our money to Washington, DC and when they offered it back, we turned it down. Not only does this make no sense from a budget standpoint, but it also puts people’s lives on the line. This is our money and we need to take it back.”

Oshkosh: “BadgerCare expansion would help thousands of working people in northeast Wisconsin get health coverage,” said Citizen Action of Wisconsin Organizer Jolie Lizotte. “This will help families in the Fox Valley area afford healthcare they desperately need. Expanding BadgerCare coverage to these families is the right thing to do.”

State Legislature Must Take Action to Protect Health Coverage

For Immediate Release–July 9, 2017

Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 robert.kraig@citizenactionwi.org

Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, marketplace health insurance, at grave risk of having coverage taken away by conservative federal judges

Milwaukee: In a telephone news conference this morning, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and seven lawmakers called for urgent state legislative action to protect Wisconsinites from the health care chaos that would be unleashed by an adverse decision in a federal court case challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Oral arguments are being held today in federal appeals court on the case of Texas v. United States, which President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Bar are using as a vehicle for invalidating the entire ACA, including the popular protections against pre-existing condition discrimination. Under Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin was the second plaintiff in the case until Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul were able to pull out after a state court temporarily invalidated GOP lame duck restrictions on withdrawal from lawsuits.

Joining the news conference this morning where State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), State Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire), State Representative Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee), State Senator Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire), State Representative Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg), and State Representative Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee).

Listen to a recording of the entire Wisconsin news conference here.

Speakers at the news conference made the case that eventual U.S. Supreme Court action invalidating the ACA is a clear and present danger in 2020. Therefore, it is critical that state lawmakers put the law’s critical consumer protection in state law by the end of the legislative session. If the ACA was struck down the following provisions would be eliminated from federal law:

      • Guaranteeing coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, impacting an estimated 852,000 to 2.436 million Wisconsinites.
      • Prohibition of price discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions. In Wisconsin without this protection a patient with a pregnancy could be charged $17,060 more, and someone with metastatic cancer could be charged $140,510 more.
      • Free coverage of preventative care such as mammograms and colonoscopies for 2,804,258 Wisconsinites.
      • Mental health parity.
      • Prohibition of gender discrimination in coverage and pricing.
      • Prohibition of age discrimination in pricing, the so-called “age tax.”
      • Prohibition of lifetime and annual care limits.
      • Protections against junk health care plans by requiring that all essential health benefits be covered.
      • Substance abuse coverage.
      • Resources and funds to hold insurance companies accountable to regulation.

In addition, 153,000 Wisconsinites would have their health coverage taken away if the ACA was struck down, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

Citizen Action is urging lawmakers to codify the ACA’s consumer protections and health insurance regulations in state law to protect Wisconsinites in the event of a damaging U.S. Supreme Court decision. Citizen Action is also urging lawmakers to create a plan, triggered by an adverse court decision striking down the ACA, to replace the marketplace plans for people who buy insurance on their own and the federal subsidies that make them more affordable.

“We can’t count on Washington to be listening to us,” Rep. Amanda Stuck. “We need to take action now and protect the people here in Wisconsin at the state level.”

“I have two daughters who are out of college and haven’t really hit that career job yet. So it’s really important to me that they’re able to be on our health insurance until they’re 26 years old,” said Rep. Jodi Emerson. “Having health care protections for young people as they start their career is so important. If the ACA is done away with, if this case succeeds, our young adults are really going to be at risk for not being covered because of the gig economy that’s going on and maybe having a couple of different part-time jobs. As a mother of two twenty-year-old girls, this is really important to me.”

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, this should be bipartisan,” said Sen. Chris Larson. “Everybody gets sick. The only people who will, frankly, be protected if this lawsuit succeeds is the health insurance industry.”

“The Republican challenge of the Affordable Care Act is cruel, it’s reckless and it will ultimately hurt our nation’s most vulnerable population,” said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa. “When healthcare options become limited or unattainable, it’s people of color – especially women of color – like myself who are the most harmed.”

“The State Legislature has a moral obligation to protect the people of Wisconsin from harm. The federal court nullification of the ACA is a predictable human-made disaster that would reap havoc with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “We urge state lawmakers to take action to put the popular federal protections against pre-existing condition discriminating and other insurance industry abuses in state law, and beyond the reach of activist federal judges.”