This Action Center is a clearinghouse for Citizen Action members and friends to focus our voices on enacting policies to the scale of the crisis.
COVID 19 has sparked two interrelated crises: a deadly public health crisis and as a consequence one of the most serious job loss calamities in American history. Neither crisis will end anytime soon. In addition, a third crisis moment has catapulted to the top of the public agenda, sparked by the mass protest movement inspired in reaction to George Floyd’s racist murder. The urgent demand for true racial equality coming from millions of protesters also implicates the basic structure of the American economy which locks low income people of color in economic insecurity and over-policed neighborhoods.
Citizen Action’s COVID-19/Racial Justice demands of elected leaders are guided by these principles.
- We must suspend normal politics, and do everything possible to save the maximum number of human lives.
- We must fight for true equity. We can no longer allow race and class to decide who lives and who dies.
- We must put aside outdated limits on what is possible, and act with the radical boldness of Americans in past national emergencies such as the Great Depression and both World Wars.
Health Care Policies to Contain the Pandemic
COVID-19 has spread invisibly across the entire population. To stop the contagion, and safely open the economy, we must develop an unprecedented testing, contact tracing, and viral surveillance capacity that goes well beyond merely testing people with a narrow set of symptoms. The U.S. response still lags behind every other major advanced industrial country. States are reopening without the public health capacity needed to manage it safely, sparking another wave of infections. Structural racism in both the health care system and the economy are generating shocking racial disparities in infection and death rates. In Wisconsin, African Americans are only 6% of the population but 25% of the COVID-19 deaths. Members of the Latinx community are 33% of the infections, but only 7% of the state populations.
Sabotage by right-wing politicians in Washington and in states is blocking us from building the necessary public health infrastructure to safely manage the pandemic and save human lives. Even if the sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity is built, our profit-crazed health care system, with is sky high medical service and drug prices, is a major barrier to containing the pandemic not faced by any other advanced industrial nation. A Citizen Action/Health Value Hub survey of 1,000 Wisconsinites found that in the past year nearly half had avoided necessary medical care due to cost. A national study found 68% would consider avoiding COVID-19 testing and treatment if it is too expensive, even if they have symptoms.
The Citizen Action Plan
Because the entire public health community is asking for the federal government to build a massive testing and contact tracing system, similar to what the most successful countries are doing to contain the pandemic, Citizen Action is focusing on the neglected health care cost barrier to saving lives, which disproportionately falls on the working class and people of color. Citizen Action has developed a plan for Wisconsin to guarantee universal free testing and treatment.
1) Use emergency powers granted by the federal government to deploy BadgerCare to guarantee that everyone has health coverage during the pandemic. This would make it possible to cover anyone who is hospitalized without health coverage to be immediately enrolled in BadgerCare.
2) Immediately expand BadgerCare by accepting the Medicaid Expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act. (This covers at least 75,000 more people, and frees up $340 million that can be immediately put into testing and contact tracing).
3) Mandate that health insurance plans pay for all treatment resulting from seeking medical attention for COVID-19, including pre-existing which make the virus more dangerous. (Although the Congress and Wisconsin state government have passed laws directing health insurers not to charge for testing, families across Wisconsin are stilling being illegally bills up to $1,200. Treatment is still generates massive copays and deductibles).
We need you to contact Governor Evers, your State Senator, and your State Representative, and urge them to make free testing and treatment for COVID-19 part of the relief bill now being drafted. This Free treatment must include care for any pre-existing conditions that are contributing to the intensity of the COVID-19 symptoms.
- Email Governor and Legislators
- Call the Governor and Your State Legislator
Leg Hotline # 1-800-362-9472
- Citizen Action Director Robert Kraig’s Column making the full case for universal free testing and treatment
- Citizen Action Memo to Governor Evers on Free Testing and Treatment
Actions to Address the Economic Fallout of COVID-19
Now that the coronavirus is spreading invisibly through the population, the best available containment strategy is drastically curtailing physical interactions, putting the economy into what some economists term a “medically induced coma.” This has led to the largest surge in unemployment ever measured, faster than even during the Great Depression!
The only way to prevent economic ruin for millions of average people and small businesses is bold unprecedented government action.
Just as happened during the Wall Street financial meltdown of 2008-2009, business as usual politics is directing a lion’s share of the resources to rescuing big corporations, rather than working and middle class Americans, or small businesses.
The federal government is already injecting more money into the American economy than ever in American history, and there will be many more federal and state relief bills. This is a once in a lifetime moment, and perhaps our only oportuntty, to make the structural reforms needed to prevent a climate genocide and to radically reduce economic and racial inequality.
Citizen Action’s Proposals
We are rapidly developing a series of policies which will help average people weather this storm while also building towards an equitable and sustainable economy.
Our first proposal is to waive all utility bills for those out-of-work during Wisconsin’s stay-at-home rule. State regulators have already directed most Wisconsin utilities to “stop utility disconnection for nonpayment for all customers” during the COVID-19 emergency. This is a good start, but deferring payments simply pushes the problem down the road by building up debt hardpressed homeowners and renters may never be able to repay.
If we have to tighten our belt, we believe giant corporations should have to do so too. Citizen Action would support using state money to pay the utilities back, if they agree to stop dragging their feet on the needed climate transition by making major and accountable investments in conservation and renewable energy that dramatically increases the number of family supporting jobs.
Sign Citizen Actions Petition demanding the state stop utilities from charging Wisconsin’s jobless workers during the crisis! Once you sign, you will be offered additional action opportunities.
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