Report: 50% JUMP IN WISCONSIN BILLIONAIRE WEALTH—ALMOST ALL TAX-FREE—SHOWS NEED FOR BIDEN’S INVESTMENT & TAX PLANS

For Immediate Release – August 24th, 2021
Contact: Robert Kraig, (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

 

50% JUMP IN WISCONSIN BILLIONAIRE WEALTH—ALMOST ALL  TAX-FREE—SHOWS NEED FOR BIDEN’S INVESTMENT & TAX PLANS

8 State Tycoons Have Enjoyed a $20 Billion Increase in Wealth Since Pandemic Began; Their Rise in Riches Alone Could Fund 12% of the Cost of Lowering ACA Health Insurance Premiums for 9 Million Americans Over 10 Years

Groups Call on Senator Tammy Baldwin, Reps. Kind and Moore, to Support $3.5 Trillion Investment Agenda Now Before Congress Paid for by Taxing the Wealthy and Corporations

 

Milwaukee, WI — Wisconsin’s eight billionaires increased their wealth during the pandemic by half or 50%—from $39.4 billion at the start of the COVID crisis on March 18, 2020, to $59.2 billion on August 17 of this year, according to a report from Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Health Care of American Now (HCAN) analyzing Forbes wealth data, and released by Citizen Action of Wisconsin. [See table on page 2.]

This billionaire bonanza demonstrates what is wrong with our current economic and tax systems, as Democrats in Congress try to remedy some of the glaring inequities by advancing a $3.5 trillion budget package, which has passed the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. If the budget package becomes law through the budget reconciliation process this fall, it will invest tens of billions of dollars in Wisconsin communities and working families by making healthcare, eldercare, childcare, housing and education more affordable, investing in clean energy, expanding the Child Tax Credit and providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. It will be paid for by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and it will not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. 

The report also found that U.S. billionaire wealth overall grew by 62% during the pandemic, or by $1.8 trillion, rising from $2.95 trillion on March 18, 2020, to $4.77 trillion on Aug. 17, 2021, when there were 708 billionaires. (The full data set is here.) That increased wealth, which will not be taxed unless billionaires sell their assets, would pay for more than half of Biden’s 10-year $3.5 trillion investment package. 

“This report shows why we need the entire state congressional delegation, especially Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Ron Kind and Gwen Moore who both sit on the House tax-writing committee, to support President Biden’s Build Back Better plan being debated in Washington right now,” said Claire Zautke, Health Care for All Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “That plan will invest $3.5 trillion in working families and our communities by making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. It will provide the funding we need to create thousands of good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and help people afford healthcare, eldercare, childcare, education, housing and more.” 

 

Billionaire Net Worth

Mar. 18, 2020

($ Millions)

Net Worth

Aug. 17, 2021

($ Millions)

17 Month Wealth Growth

($ Millions)

17 Month % Wealth Growth Wealth Source Industry
WISCONSIN TOTAL $39,400  $59,235  $19,835  50.3%
John Menard, Jr. $11,500  $17,070  $5,570  48.4% home improvement stores Fashion & Retail
Diane Hendricks $6,900  $11,144  $4,244  61.5% roofing Construction & Engineering
Herbert Kohler, Jr. $5,900  $8,845  $2,945  49.9% plumbing fixtures Manufacturing
Judy Faulkner $2,500  $6,676  $4,176  167.0% health IT Technology
James Cargill, II. $2,700  $4,692  $1,992  73.8% Cargill Food & Beverage
Helen Johnson-Leipold $3,300  $3,610  $310  9.4% cleaning products Manufacturing
S. Curtis Johnson $3,300  $3,610  $310  9.4% cleaning products Manufacturing
H. Fisk Johnson $3,300  $3,588  $288  8.7% cleaning products Manufacturing
Sources: March 18, 2020 data: Forbes, “Forbes Publishes 34th Annual List Of Global Billionaires” March 18, 2020
August 17, 2021 data: Forbes, “The World’s Real-Time Billionaires, Today’s Winners and Losers,” accessed August 17, 2021

 

“It’s time Wisconsin billionaires and big corporations step up to the plate and pay their fair share,” said Dr. Robert Kraig, Executie Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “It’s time that lawmakers prioritize working people by rewarding work not wealth and closing huge tax loopholes. President Biden’s plan levels the playing field and ensures that everyone in America, not just the rich and corporations, can get a fair shot at a good-paying job, affordable health care and a real opportunity at a better future. Biden’s plan won’t raise taxes on anyone earning under $400,000, meaning that 99% of Americans and 97% of small business owners won’t pay any more in taxes while the rich and corporations will finally pay a fairer share.”

The state’s billionaire wealth bonanza over the past 17 months is all the more appalling when contrasted with the devastating impact of covid-19 on working people. In Wisconsin: 1,516,693 have lost jobs, at least 650,000 have been sickened, and 8,400 have died from it. 

President Biden’s investment proposals contained in the Senate and House-passed budget resolutions would significantly improve Wisconsin residents’ health by making private insurance in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges more affordable; expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits; increasing long-term care benefits to help people afford home and community-based services; and lowering the cost of prescription drugs by giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower prices with drug corporations. 

Biden’s proposed investments would reduce health insurance premiums for 9 million people. An average 60-year-old in Wisconsin making $55,000 annually would save nearly $600 on their monthly premium for an ACA insurance policy. The cost of extending these subsidies is $163 billion over 10 years, per the Treasury Department. That means the $20 billion increase in Wisconsin billionaire wealth over the last 17 months could pay for 12% of the entire 10-year cost of making healthcare more affordable for 9 million people.

While these investments in healthcare would benefit millions of Americans and save money in the long run, the ballooning wealth of billionaires benefits no one but the super-rich. That is because the current tax code is riddled with loopholes and special breaks that allow the super wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. 

Due to one of the tax code’s biggest loopholes, increased wealth enjoyed by Wisconsin billionaires can go untaxed forever. The same is true for all asset growth, which is the primary source of income for the rich. The virtual tax-free status of billionaire wealth growth was highlighted recently by a report from ProPublica. The report estimated that 25 top billionaires paid on average just 3.4% of their wealth-growth in federal income taxes and that several, including Jeff Bezos (worth $188 billion on August 17, 2021) and Elon Musk (worth $175 billion), went multiple recent years paying zero federal income tax. 

Even when taxed, the top tax rate on income generated from wealth (such as the sale of stock or a business or a famous painting) is only about half that of wage income—20% vs. 37%. President Biden would end those special breaks on the wealth-growth income of millionaires and billionaires as part of his tax-reform package. Following are Biden’s tax reforms expected to be a part of budget reconciliation legislation to be voted on in the fall, many of which will ensure Wisconsin billionaires start paying closer to their fair share to taxes:

  • Tax wealth like work. People with more than $1 million a year in income will have to pay a top tax rate on the sale of stock and other assets that is the same as the top rate workers pay on wages. Biden also will close a loophole that often allows the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on investment gains for their entire lives. These reforms will raise $325 billion.
  • Restore the top individual tax rate to 39.6% and stop avoidance of taxes by wealthy business owners that are used to fund healthcare. These two reforms will together raise $370 billion
  • Crack down on tax evasion by the wealthy, which will raise $700 billion
  • Raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, leaving it still far below the 35% rate in 2017. Corporate taxes are largely paid by the owners of corporations, the stockholders. Billionaires are among the wealthiest 1% that own over half of all corporate stock. This reform will raise nearly $900 billion
  • Curb offshore corporate tax dodging by eliminating incentives to outsource jobs and shift profits to tax havens. This reform will raise more than $1 trillion

A more direct way to tax billionaire wealth is to tax the wealth itself instead of just its growth. If the wealth tax proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren had been in effect in 2020, the nation’s billionaires alone would have paid $114 billion for that year—and would pay an estimated combined total of $1.4 trillion over 10 years. 

Poll after poll shows that Americans of all political persuasions and by large majorities believe that the wealthy and big corporations need to start paying their fair share of taxes. A June poll by ALG Research and Hart Research shows 62% of voters support Biden’s proposed $4 trillion (at the time) investments in healthcare, childcare, education, clean energy and more—paid for by higher taxes on the rich and corporations. 

 

March 18, 2020 is used as the unofficial beginning of the coronavirus crisis because by then most federal and state economic restrictions responding to the virus were in place. March 18 was also the date that Forbes picked to measure billionaire wealth for the 2020 edition of its annual billionaires’ report, which provided a baseline that ATF and HCAN compare periodically with real-time data from the Forbes website. PolitiFact has favorably reviewed this methodology. 

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Issue Brief Release: Rx Reform in Congress Must Include Rx Price Negotiations to Make Medicines Affordable for More Veterans and Their Families

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2021
Contacts:
Claire Zautke, Healthcare for All Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 414-940-3375, [email protected]
Alex Brower, Executive Director, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, 414-949-8756, [email protected]

 

Issue Brief Release: Rx Reform in Congress Must Include Rx Price Negotiations to Make Medicines Affordable for More Veterans and Their Families

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans and Citizen Action of Wisconsin are calling on Congress this Independence Day to lower drug prices through negotiations that will make prescription medicines more affordable and accessible for everyone, including millions of veterans struggling with service related health conditions. Veterans often have complex health care needs that require treatment with prescription medicines, but the high price of prescription drugs limits access for veterans and their families including for veterans struggling with PTSD ((Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), an all too common consequence of military service. 

There are currently approximately 19 million U.S. veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including over 363,000 in Wisconsin. Gulf War-era veterans make up the largest share of the national total, surpassing Vietnam-era veterans based on the VA’s 2018 population model estimates. A third of veterans in a recent study say they had trouble paying their bills in their first few years after leaving the military. Among veterans who report PTSD, six-in-ten (61%) say they had trouble paying their bills and four-in-ten (42%) say they had trouble getting medical care for themselves or their families.

Veterans Commonly Have Service-Related Health Conditions

Veterans often have complex health care needs and conditions related to their military service including higher rates of traumatic brain injury, mental illnesses like depression and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Research shows that one in five U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan experience depression or PTSD.  Climbing suicide rates among younger veterans attest to the real and lasting impact of military service on mental health and the need for accessible treatment.

Veterans also face occupational hazards like exposure to hazardous chemicals and environmental conditions that impact their health. Many face service-connected hearing loss. A 2015 report showed that 16% to 26% of male veterans and 7% to 13% of female veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars were diagnosed with hearing problems. Veterans are also more likely to experience musculoskeletal injuries because of the physical nature of the work that includes marching, running and carrying heavy equipment. Veterans have twice the incidence of osteoarthritis as their civilian counterparts, for instance, because of physical demands, traumatic injuries, and repetitive physical activities. There is a documented link between chronic pain from physical impacts of occupation or injury and mental health conditions like PTSD and depression.

Veterans Get Health Coverage From a Variety of Sources and Face Gaps in Care

Veterans receive health coverage from a variety of sources including the  Veterans Health Administration, Tricare, Medicaid, Medicare and through private insurance.  About 6% of veterans still remain uninsured despite broad gains for veterans under the Affordable Care Act between 2013 and 2015. Coverage gains for veterans were more pronounced in states that expanded Medicaid as part of ACA implementation. The two states with the highest number of uninsured veterans, Texas and Florida, have not implemented Medicaid expansion. 

The (VHA) is  the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,293 health care facilities, including 171 VA Medical Centers and 1,112 outpatient locations. Over 60% veterans are eligible for healthcare through the VHA but fewer than half enroll. One reason is that many veterans have other sources of coverage including private insurance. Veterans who depend on private insurance or Medicare Part D coverage are subject to the same problems with prescription drug affordability as the rest of us even though their health care needs may be greater than those of the general population. About 40% of people with private insurance still can’t afford prescriptions, including millions of veterans who need treatment for common service related health issues described above.

The price of prescription medicines is increasing faster than any other medical good or service, largely because drug corporations have monopoly power to set and keep prices high. Drug corporporations charge patients in the United States three times as much as people in other countries for the same drugs. Already in 2021, drug corporations have raised prices on over 830 drugs by an average of 4.5%. More price increases are expected in July since drug corporations typically increase prices twice a year. Congressional action to lower drug prices would benefit taxpayers, businesses, families and veterans, who largely get their health care from the same sources as the rest of us. 

Congress Must Lower Drug Prices to Make Medicines More Affordable and Improve Health

Nearly 9 out of 10 voters named lowering prescription drug prices as a top health care issue leading into the 2020 election. Current federal programs like the VHA and Medicaid provide guidance on how Congress can lower prescription drug prices for everyone and increase accessibility to affordable medicines, particularly by adopting price negotiations that exist in these programs but are prohibited in Medicare Part D.  

  • A comparison by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of prices for brand-name drugs in government programs and agencies including Veterans, Department of Defense, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D found that Medicare Part D’s prices were significantly higher than the other programs where direct purchasing and negotiations were used. 
  • A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid, on average, 54 percent less per unit for a sample of 399 brand-name and generic prescription drugs in 2017 as did Medicare Part D, even after accounting for applicable rebates and price concessions in the Part D program

Experts affirm that being able to afford prescriptions is a key reason why people skip doses or forgo medicine rather than comply with doctors’ orders to take it. Research shows for instance, that one in four diabetics skip insulin doses because they can’t afford the medicine.  There are dangerous health risks to skipping medicines and negative impacts on health outcomes that can even include death as we’ve seen in several cases of insulin rationing. But for people who can’t afford medicines, there is no choice until Congress takes action to ensure increased affordability and access. 

A 2020 study in Health Affairs shows that veterans who get their health care through the VHA, including low-cost prescription medicines, are more likely to take their medicines as directed because of the improved access. Researchers concluded that although veterans with VHA health coverage were older and in worse health and had lower incomes than those with other kinds of  coverage, VHA patients had lower rates of cost-related medication nonadherence: 6.1 percent versus 10.9 percent for non-VHA patients.

Here in Wisconsin, veteran Roger Punswick receives prescription drugs through the VHA. As a Vietnam veteran, he was exposed to agent orange, and currently receives a lot of medications with no co-pay because the prescriptions are service related.  He is currently on 7 medications, including Metforman, Metolpral, Hydrolozen, Certroline, and Ferosomide, among others. Roger says “Everyone should be able to afford the prescription drugs they need – even if they did not serve.” 

Congress Should Implement  Negotiations in Medicare and Extend Discounted Prices to Everyone 

H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act and the newly-released Senate Finance Committee principles for prescription drug reform both include proposals for Medicare negotiations that would lower prices and then extend those discounts beyond Part D enrollees so that people with private insurance or no insurance can also benefit from more affordable medicines. Congresswoman Gwen Moore voted in support of HR 3 in the 116th Congress and is a co-sponsor of the bill in the current Congress.

Negotiating drug prices in Medicare is a popular and bipartisan proposal that would save patients and taxpayers money and increase access to medicines that people need, including many veterans. 

Senator Tammy Baldwin has openly supported price negotiations, and Wisconsinites are still waiting on Senator Ron Johnson to sign on to negotiations. 

A new study by West Health shows that Under H.R. 3, employers could save $195 billion on health care spending, while employees would save $61 billion in lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs). Costs in the ACA market could fall by $58 billion, including $34 billion in premiums and patient cost-sharing. Overall, the CBO predicts that the bill would save taxpayers nearly half a trillion dollars that could be invested to improve benefits and services in other areas of Medicare.

Although the pharmaceutical industry is objecting to these proposals with false claims about dangers to innovation, a June survey shows that 8 in 10 Americans still prefer major government action to lower prices notwithstanding the industry’s fear mongering over innovation.

Americans Have Waiting Long Enough for Fair and Affordable Drug Prices–It’s Time for Action

After decades of lip service from both parties, Americans can’t wait anymore for Congressional action to lower drug prices and ensure that medicines are affordable for everyone who needs them. There are ample models thanks to the VHA, Department of Defense, and Medicaid to demonstrate that negotiating prices directly with drug corporations and putting in place rules to ensure consumer protections against drug corporations’ monopoly pricing of medicines works. 

The prescription drug industry has the highest profit margins of any sector in the nation. Continuing to put those profits ahead of patients’ health, particularly the veterans who have sacrificed and contributed in countless ways to protect the security and well-being of the nation, is fundamentally wrong.

“No matter where we live, what we look like, or how much money we make, high prescription drug prices affect us all,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “For too long, Big Pharma executives have lined their own pockets at the expense of Wisconsinites’ health – aided by the lack of transparency in drug pricing. Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our members call on Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to support the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.”  

“Wisconsinites – and all Americans – need to be able to afford medically necessary medications” said Gary Mitchell, President of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, “it’s time for Congress to at least pass HR. 3.” 

It’s time for Congress to honor the peace, freedom and prosperity that veterans have fought for across generations by taking action to ensure everyone in America has access to affordable healthcare and medicines they need to take care of themselves and their families. 

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Legislature Should Go Back to the Drawing Board on State Budget; Citizen Action calls for “No” votes and a full budget Veto

For Immediate Release: June 29, 2021
Contact: Robert Kraig, (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

Legislature Should Go Back to the Drawing Board on State Budget

Citizen Action calls for “No” votes and a full budget Veto

Statewide: The conservative-dominated Legislature appears poised to miss the greatest opportunity in decades to make badly needed investments that would improve the lives of most Wisconsinites.

The historic federal commitment to jump-start the nation’s recovery from the pandemic and its economic fallout for working Americans gives Wisconsin the fiscal freedom to make up for decades of austerity budgets, and to make long overdue investments.

But instead, the conservatives who control the Legislature are poised to turn down over a billion federal dollars, and to prioritize tax breaks for the wealthiest Wisconsin over investments in education, health care access, transit, expanding economic opportunity and racial equity. The Legislature also fails to make investments in the green economic transition needed to head off a climate catastrophe.

“Citizen Action calls for legislators to reject this budget, and for Governor Evers to veto it in its present form. The refusal to expand the popular BadgerCare program when tens of thousands of working Wisconsinites lack access to healthcare is only one example of the reckless cruelty of this budget,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This budget could only be supported by lawmakers who have isolated themselves from public opinion behind rigged legislative maps. Conservative legislators are literally throwing away money through tax giveaways and the refusal to accept federal money earmarked for Wisconsin rather than making overwhelmingly popular and badly needed investments in health care, education, jobs, transit, and a green economy that improves economic and racial equity.”

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Issue Brief: Congress Should Prioritize Equitable Health Care and Economic Security for Everyone in Building Back Better

For Immediate Release: June 18, 2021
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

 

New Issue Brief from Citizen Action of WI and Health Care for America Now Details that Congress Must Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap To Address Health Equity

Two-thirds of people who would gain coverage in non-expansion states are people of color

 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin:  Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Health Care for America Now (HCAN) released a new issue brief today highlighting racial equity in health care policies as the nation prepares to commemorate Juneteenth, which marks the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

The report describes how Congress and the Biden Administration can reduce racial disparities that result in worse health outcomes and diminished economic security for Black and Brown people by prioritizing policies that make healthcare affordable and expanding coverage. 

Specifically, the report details how closing the Medicaid coverage gap in twelve states that have not yet expanded Medicaid would increase health equity. Nationally, about 4 million low-income people could gain coverage under Medicaid if these states expand Medicaid, including 2.2 million adults with incomes below the poverty line. Of this number, 28% are Black and another 28% are Latino. Medicaid expansion in these states would finally finish the job of implementing the Affordable Care Act which now covers 31 million people, the largest number in its history.

The ACA brought the number of uninsured people to historical lows and narrowed health disparities.  Latino, Black, and Native Americans had higher percentage point increases in coverage than whites since these groups were all more likely to be uninsured before the ACA was implemented. 

In Wisconsin, 202,546 residents have gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.  Since 2013, the rate of uninsured dropped from 13.4% in 2013 to 12.3% in 2019.

Medicaid expansion has a proven track record of reducing health disparities. Yet, three fourths of states that have not expanded Medicaid despite increased incentives under the American Rescue Plan are in the South, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Three of these states (Texas, Georgia, Florida) also have the largest number of non-Hispanic Black people in the country. Texas and Florida are also among the top five states with the largest populations of Hispanic Blacks. 

“Health equity is not a blue state or a red state issue,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin “No matter where someone lives or what they look like, no one should be denied access to quality healthcare based on political grudges. Many other states, Democratic and Repbublican led, have put the interests and needs of their constituents ahead of their own partisanship. Politicians in the remaining states – like Wisconsin – should not be allowed to hold low income people, Black people and Brown people hostage to their own agenda. Biden and Congress must intervene and there’s never been a better time.”

Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff wrote a recent letter urging Congress and the Biden Administration to take action to create a federal solution for people denied Medicaid  coverage because of political gridlock that would allow people in non-expansion states to access affordable healthcare. Doing so would build on other improvements that emerged in ARPA that  expanded premium tax credits and gave millions more people access to quality, affordable healthcare with lower premiums. 

More than a third of enrollees have a plan that costs $10 or less per month including  4 in 10 new enrollees. ARPA increased funding to address maternal health by extending health coverage for new mothers, gave states the option to expand home based and community services and provided subsidized COBRA coverage for laid off and unemployed workers. The rescue plan also increased funding for Medicaid expansion as an incentive to states to finally expand coverage to uninsured but none of the dozen states took up the funding.

Members of the Black, Hispanic and Asian Congressional Caucuses are now working together to advance closing the coverage gap as a key strategy to address racial health disparities, starting with a Tri Caucus sign on letter. Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore signed on to the letter. 

 

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is a member-owned coalition of individuals and organizations committed to achieving social, racial, economic, health, and environmental justice through grassroots organizing and advocacy. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @CitizenActionWI.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a grassroots coalition of state and national groups that led the fight to pass the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). Healthcare Over Wealthcare is a campaign of Health Care for America Now that advocates for prioritizing investments in equitable, affordable healthcare for everyone over tax breaks for the rich and corporations.  Follow us on Twitter @HCAN.

 

Link to Issue Brief

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Press Statement on the Supreme Court Dismissing the ACA Lawsuit

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2021
Contacts:
Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, [email protected]
Claire Zautke, (414) 940-3375, [email protected]

 

 

US Supreme Court Ruling on the ACA is Welcome News
Work Remains to Establish Health Care as a Human Right


Following the US Supreme Court ruling that leaves in place the Affordable Care Act, Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, issued this statement
:

“The Supreme Court decision rejecting the latest attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act gives a welcome reprieve to millions of Wisconsinites with preexisting conditions, or without good coverage at work, from losing their health care. While the popular Affordable Care Act provides basic health care protections, there is still much to be done to guarantee that every American has quality affordable health care, no matter what. Citizen Action of Wisconsin will continue to fight until health care is established as a human right, and everyone in Wisconsin receives the care they need, when they need it, without fear or financial hardship.” 

 

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Statement on BadgerCare Expansion Special Session

For Immediate Release: May 19, 2021
Contact: Robert Kraig, (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

Citizen Action statement on Gov. Tony Evers calling a Special Legislative Session to expand BadgerCare

Statewide: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide grassroots organizing group dedicated to guaranteeing affordable healthcare to everyone in Wisconsin, applauds Governor Tony Evers’ declaration of a Special Legislative Session to enact BadgerCare Expansion.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig made the following statement: “The Joint Finance Committee last week attempted to take BadgerCare Expansion, the top state budget issue, out of budget deliberations. Public support for accepting billions of federal dollars to expand health care access for working Wisconsinites struggling to make ends meet is so overwhelming, and the policy case so strong, that any further opportunity to debate the merits of the issue increases the likelihood of passage. It is long overdue for the State of Wisconsin to stop wasting hundreds of millions of public dollars to cover fewer people.” 

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New Issue Brief Details Need for Tax Reform of Big Pharma

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2021
Contacts Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

 

New Issue Brief Details Need for Tax Reform of Big Pharma
Congress Must Put Healthcare Over Wealthcare


Milwaukee, WI: As Congress prepares to debate President Biden’s proposals to increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations as part of his “Build Back Better” economic stimulus and recovery package, state and national advocates released a new issue brief this Tax Day making the case for increasing taxes on drug corporations to fund investments in health care affordability.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin released the short report titled, “Congress Must Make the Wealthy and Corporations Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes to Support Healthcare and Economic Recovery” in collaboration with the national Healthcare Over Wealthcare project that supports tax fairness reforms to generate more revenue for healthcare and safety net expansions. The brief describes how the wealthy and corporations continued to prosper from the Trump era Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TJCA) and long-standing tax loopholes while average-income people lost jobs, income, and healthcare during the pandemic.

In Wisconsin, for instance, where over 600,000 people have been infected with COVID and many are still struggling to recover health and economic stability: 

  • 256,000 in state are struggling to afford enough food; 
  • 155,000 are struggling to pay pay rent;
  • The unemployment rate remains high at 3.8% and there are 148,000 fewer jobs today than when the pandemic started.

Conditions could deteriorate further if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion, a source of healthcare for almost 400,000 Wisconsinites which also provides consumer protections to 883,000 people with pre-existing conditions in the state. The Supreme Court is due to rule on the constitutionality of the law again this summer.

As millions of Americans lost jobs and healthcare in 2020, the wealthiest households and prescription drug corporations continued to get tax breaks throughout the pandemic. The wealthiest 1% of households in Wisconsin received a tax break of $39,610 last year, while the poorest households, those making under $24,000 received about $30.

Prescription drug corporations, which raised their prices on hundreds of drugs in both 2020 and 2021, and have already received billions in tax breaks under the Trump tax law continue to receive tax breaks even as they raise prices so high that even a third of people with insurance can’t afford medicines.

Some of the largest of these corporations, including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, also received billions in taxpayer funds to develop, manufacture and distribute the new COVID 19 vaccine. Pfizer announced recently that it expects to generate $26 billion in revenue in 2021 from the vaccine.  The price of prescription drugs is rising faster than any other good or service even as demand for medicines is increasing because of COVID.

President Biden’s “Made in America Tax Plan,” would raise about $3.6 trillion in revenue from a combination of corporate tax increases, raising taxes on households making over $400,000, closing loopholes and increasing enforcement of tax laws, particularly on higher income payers. Drug corporations would face increased domestic rates and increased offshore rates on profits stashed in tax havens. The revenue would support popular investments like increased premium tax credits for people buying ACA coverage, childcare and family leave expansions, jobs and infrastructure repairs.

“No one should have to choose between paying for medicine and paying for other basic needs like food, rent or transportation. COVID has sharpened the contrast between average Americans struggling to afford healthcare and medicine. The Big Pharma corporations who keep jacking up prices and then getting rewarded by tax breaks,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “President Biden’s proposals to increase corporate tax rates on companies like these drug corporations are long overdue. Right now, patients are paying three times for prescription medicines: once for research and development, once at the pharmacy and then once more for the tax breaks that these corporations get annually. It’s time to flip the script and make them pay their fair share.”

 

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Citizen Action of Wisconsin is a member-owned coalition of individuals and organizations committed to achieving social, racial, economic, health, and environmental justice through grassroots organizing and advocacy. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @CitizenActionWI.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a grassroots coalition of state and national groups that led the fight to pass the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). Healthcare Over Wealthcare is a campaign of Health Care for America Now that advocates for prioritizing investments in equitable, affordable healthcare for everyone over tax breaks for the rich and corporations.  Follow us on Twitter @HCAN.

Press Statement re: Biden’s American Family Plan

For Immediate Release: April 28, 2021
Contacts: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324, [email protected]

 

Statement: Biden’s American Family Plan makes historic investments in paid leave, child care, and tax fairness, but misses an opportunity on prescription drug affordability

Following President Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress outlining his new American Families Plan, Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin issued this statement:

“President Biden outlined a plan that includes many of the key priorities and policies that will really help Wisconsinites take the next step toward meaningful health and economic recovery from COVID. The American Families Plan also makes historic investments in child care, paid leave, education, and tax fairness that will increase economic security and opportunities for all in Wisconsin. The

The creation of a new national paid family and medical leave program is particularly exciting. For too long, Americans have had to choose between caring for their family’s well being – like having time to recover from childbirth and bond with a new infant – and needing income to pay bills. The new paid leave program will guarantee twelve weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness/safe leave (for people escaping domestic violence or recovering from assault) by year 10, and ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave every year within the first year of the program. The program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers.

It is disappointing, however, that the American Families Plan omits any significant reforms or investments related to prescription drug affordability. It is encouraging to hear the President reaffirm his commitment to lowering drug prices – a key component of access and affordability particularly for seniors, people with disabilities and people with chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. However, the time is now to make the long-overdue reforms that will make prescription medicines affordable to everyone who needs them.

Congress took an important step forward last week by introducing the Lower Drug Costs Now Act which would allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices on behalf of beneficiaries for the first time, saving taxpayers more than $450 billion. These savings could fund investments in the economy, make healthcare more affordable, and finally end Pharma’s monopoly power to price-gouge.  Citizen Action of Wisconsin urges President Biden and Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to make affordable medicines a top priority by including this measure in the American Families Plan.”

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Citizen Action Praises Chauvin Guilty Verdict

For Immediate Release–April 20, 2021
Contact: Robert Kraig (414) 322-5324 [email protected]

Citizen Action Praises Chauvin Guilty Verdict: Calls for Transformational Reform of the Entire System

Milwaukee: Citizen Action of Wisconsin praises the murder conviction of George Floyd’s killer, former Minneapolis Police officer Derrick Chauvin, and calls for the structural reforms needed to end the police assault on Black lives.

“This murder conviction is a step forward and a great relief to everyone who cares about true human equality, but it must only be a start, not an exoneration of the system that made it possible,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The downside is that the verdict required singling out one police officer while giving cover to the police department in Minneapolis (and others around the country) for the responsibility of a structurally racist system that does not truly respect Black life. The only real solution is an unwinding of the current systems of policing and mass incarceration and its replacement with a new balanced system that truly promotes community safety for everyone in America.”

“The truth is, without the over policing of Black and Brown communities, the over funding of police departments compared to nonviolent interventions, and the social and economic investments needed in low-income and marginalized communities, George Floyd would not have had to fight for his life after being accused of a petty crime. This verdict does not change what we know to be true: the deadly official violence aimed at Black people in America will not end until we uproot the whole system, root and branch, and replace it with a system that equally values all human lives, especially Black lives and the many others that are devalued by our out of control system of policing and mass incarceration.”

The whole Citizen Action of Wisconsin team supports and fights alongside George Floyd’s family and the people demanding justice and accountability. But we also know that Justice is not just Chauvin’s conviction. Justice would be George Floyd being alive.

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ICYMI: Wisconsin’s State and federal officials to GOP Legislature: Expand Badgercare Now

ICYMI: Wisconsin’s State and federal officials to GOP Legislature: Expand Badgercare Now

GOP’s refusal to expand BadgerCare would cost the state $1.6 billion and leave 90,000 without quality coverage 

 

MILWAUKEE, WI — Yesterday, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and State Representative Sara Rodriguez joined Milwaukee area nurse Tracy Sperko for a virtual roundtable focused on health care. Their message to Republican members of the Wisconsin legislature was clear: expand Badgercare now.

For years, Republican obstruction has denied the State of Wisconsin the full advantages of accepting the federal expansion of Medicaid available under the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin is one of just 14 states that has yet to accept the expansion, which has cost the states hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The recently enacted American Rescue Plan provides even more robust financial incentives for the holdout states – like Wisconsin – which have  not implemented the Medicaid expansion made available under the Affordable Care Act. In addition to covering 90 percent of the costs for the expansion population, the federal government will chip in an extra 5 percent for the traditional Medicaid population for two years. This translates to billions in additional dollars for the states. 

Tracy Sperko, a Milwaukee area school nurse who works with adolescents described the experiences of several of her students who struggle with prescription drug and health care affordability. “I’ve been on the phone with parents, with their voice breaking. I know they’re scared,” she said. “I wonder what we are doing? Why don’t we care? We say in Wisconsin, we say in our country that we care about our children. They are our future. […] But when they’re sick, they can’t perform, they can’t learn, they can’t attend school. I want to see them have a full life, but they’re being held back.”

State Representative Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield) described the financial, moral, and public health imperative for expanding BadgerCare. “It’s time for the Legislature to recognize the successes that other states have had in expanding their eligibility criteria […] and bring those federal dollars home to Wisconsin,” said Rep. Rodriguez. “It’s not only the right thing to do for our budget, but it’s the right thing to do to ensure that people have access to basic health care services. We should not be spending more in Wisconsin to cover less people.”

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) underscored the fiscal implications for the state of Wisconsin if Republicans once again refuse to expand Badgercare, citing the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis that continued obstruction would cost the state more than $1.6 billion over just the next two years. “Here’s your opportunity to run government like a business,” she noted, “Instead, you’re leaving billions of dollars on the table.”

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes reminded attendees of the harsh realities impacting families for years that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, “an untreated medical condition can easily become a life or death situation, or (lead to) a situation between economic security or bankruptcy,” said Barnes.

You can view a recording of the full press conference at this link. Passcode: [email protected]

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