While headlines focus on the union-busting aspect of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, other items in the bill are also disturbing.
At the same time the governor and his GOP colleagues want to join a federal lawsuit to overturn a national law providing near-universal healthcare coverage, they also want to drop a significant number of people from the state’s Medicaid rolls.
If Walker’s budget passes, as it almost certainly will, it will raise eligibility requirements for BadgerCare, SeniorCare and FamilyCare – the state programs that cover healthcare for Wisconsinites who rely on Medicaid. The result is that 50,000 people would lose their healthcare coverage in July 2012.
There’s another big problem with Walker’s healthcare proposal. It gives broad but unspecified powers to the Department of Health Services to make any changes they believe will reduce costs to the state’s Medicaid system.
Walker and his fellow tea partiers have railed ad nauseam about the federal government’s alleged autocratic takeover of healthcare. But apparently they want to give the state unlimited control over the healthcare decisions of the one in five Wisconsinites who rely on Medicaid. And they want to do this without debate, with one fell swoop of Walker’s pen.
In contrast, Congress debated national healthcare reform for an entire year.
The Wisconsinites whose healthcare will be affected are not part of the wealthy Tea Party constituency that brought Walker to power. They believe it’s fine to balance the state budget by sacrificing the health – and perhaps the lives – of poor and working-class people. They prefer this strategy and union-busting to scaling back tax cuts to the wealthy, which they contend will create jobs that will benefit all Wisconsinites.
Even if this were true, we must not forget what kind of state Walker and the Tea Party are creating. The loss of collective bargaining rights will have a ripple effect that will eventually depress wages throughout the state’s economy. It will also destroy the only big-money counterbalance to the corporate dollars that flow into elections from the corporate right.
Destroying Wisconsin’s successful healthcare system, one that puts us near the top nationally for insuring kids, will lower the quality of life for the poor and working class, making Wisconsin a less fair and less attractive place to live.