Wisconsin Watches Nervously as Court Hears Health Care Case
This blog post by Rep. Jon Richards originally appeared in The Huffington Post.
Wisconsin is watching closely this week as the U.S. Supreme Court hears an extraordinary three days of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the federal health insurance reform law.
Any court decision that effectively rolls back or repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a double-whammy for Wisconsin health care consumers.
Not only would everyone who is helped by the law lose their hard earned benefits, many would also still be left to rely on a safety net that Gov. Scott Walker is relentlessly tearing down.
Millions of Wisconsin residents have already experienced firsthand the benefits of the ACA, including preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs for 1.6 million people, no lifetime limits on coverage for 2.1 million people, cheaper medications for 59,000 seniors and guaranteed coverage for 300,000 children with preexisting conditions.
Consumers will see even more protections and benefits soon.
Starting in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against anyone with a preexisting condition such as asthma, breast cancer or diabetes. Women and girls will not be able to be charged higher premiums or otherwise discriminated against by an insurer just because they are female.
Annual limits on health coverage will no longer be allowed. And affordable insurance marketplaces will give small businesses and individuals the same purchasing power as big businesses, which will drive down costs for everyone.
Opponents of the health care law like Gov. Walker and Wisconsin's Attorney General want to take these patient protections and rights away.
The Walker administration has bet the store on this week's court case, choosing to shut down work on building the state's affordable insurance marketplace and rejecting $37 million in "early innovator" grants to build computer system infrastructure.
They even requested a temporary exemption from an ACA rule that says insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical benefits. Gov. Walker wanted to let insurance companies pocket the profits for three more years. The Obama administration said no.
As Gov. Walker pushes for insurance companies to keep more profits and provide skimpier coverage, he is ensuring that Wisconsin families have fewer places to turn to address their health care needs.
Through bipartisan state health programs like BadgerCare, which was initiated by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and later expanded by his Democratic successor, Gov. Jim Doyle, we made sure that virtually every single Wisconsin resident had access to affordable health care coverage. Wisconsin now ranks second in the nation for insurance coverage.
Last year, Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state. Many families had to figure out how to pay for health insurance when they lost their jobs. The reality is most cannot afford it.
But instead of expanding or at least protecting health coverage for these struggling families, Gov. Walker moved to drop health care for 64,000 people, including 30,000 children, while providing new tax giveaways to corporations without any guarantee they create a single job.
Thankfully, the Obama administration again held firm and refused Gov. Walker's plan to kick kids off health care.
Nevertheless the Walker administration still continues to work on plans to restrict access to health care.
The Supreme Court's decision is expected sometime in June, the same month Wisconsin voters take to the polls for Walker's recall election that nearly one million residents demanded through signature ballots.
A successful recall and a Supreme Court win would be a winning combination for Wisconsin's families.