Democracy cure for BadgerCare blunder

Robert Kraig and Kevin Kane Philosopher John Dewey once said "the cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy." Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature's disastrous decision to reject federal dollars to strengthen BadgerCare is a case in p...

Robert Kraig and Kevin Kane

Philosopher John Dewey once said “the cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy.” Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature’s disastrous decision to reject federal dollars to strengthen BadgerCare is a case in point.

Despite unified support for taking the money from virtually every sector of the Wisconsin health care community, Walker and his allies in the Legislature needlessly cost us $206 million in the current state budget and needlessly denied BadgerCare to 63,000 people.

Now local elected leaders across the state are keeping the issue alive by turning to the Wisconsin tradition of using the ballot box to challenge bad policies. A wave of localities, 19 counties and one city, have placed advisory referendums on the November ballot giving local voters a say on whether Wisconsin should accept enhanced federal dollars for BadgerCare.

The BadgerCare referendums sweeping Wisconsin show that access to health care is not a partisan issue. Counties placing BadgerCare referendums on the ballot include larger liberal-leaning counties such as Milwaukee, La Crosse and Eau Claire, and conservative-leaning counties like Lincoln, Clark, Oneida, Chippewa and St. Croix.


This is how democracy ought to work.

Walker and the conservatives who control the state Legislature would like their disastrous BadgerCare decision to fade from the headlines. Local leaders are using democracy to keep the issue alive, give voters a real voice and create a public mandate for the next legislative session.

As the leaders closest to the people, they understand that in the 21st Century access to affordable health coverage is not a luxury but a necessity. Working families can’t get ahead and live the American Dream when they’re one injury or illness away from losing everything they have worked for and facing a life and death situation without necessary health coverage.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson understood this when he originally launched the BadgerCare program as a way to help working families climb out of poverty.

The local leaders behind the BadgerCare referendums also understand that leaving tens of thousands of people without health coverage shifts cost onto everyone else. A recent study by Citizen Action of Wisconsin found that Walker’s rejection of federal BadgerCare dollars is raising health insurance rates by $251 a year on average. That’s because when more families can’t afford health coverage, uncompensated care is forced on medical providers, which in turn raises the price of insurance and medical services for everyone.

Walker and his conservative allies in the Legislature, driven by an ideological imperative to derail health reform, are playing politics with the health of all Wisconsinites. The decision to reject the BadgerCare money is so without any reasonable justification that virtually every major Wisconsin newspaper editorial board has rebuked it.

The local advisory referendums that over one million Wisconsin voters will see on their ballots in November will create a powerful mandate for state government to stop playing politics with people’s lives, and use all available tools to guarantee affordable health coverage for everyone in Wisconsin, no matter what.

Robert Kraig is the executive director and Kevin Kane is the lead organizer of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide advocacy group located in Milwaukee.



Related Topics: HEALTH
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