Assembly Republicans fail first test on health care
The new leadership team in the Wisconsin Assembly has failed on health care before they even have one day of session.
Earlier this week, Speaker-elect Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) sent a letter to the Farm Bureau asking them not to vote to support the Wisconsin Health Plan. What arrogance it takes to send a letter to a group of people that are really struggling to be able to afford health care and ask them to continue to sit and wait for the state Republicans to do something about it. Especially when the person writing the letter receives top-notch health care from the state taxpayers.
Huebsch could have written a much shorter letter that would have conveyed the same message. He should have just said "Please continue to support us even though we continue to completely ignore the issues you are facing." Or how about "Please don't make us look bad or actually have a discussion on health care. We just want to tinker around the edges and make it look like we want to solve the problem."
Can anyone blame the Farm Bureau for finally looking elsewhere for leadership on the health care issue? Here is what Wisconsin farmers are facing:
The Farm Bureau conducted a survey of farmers this spring and found that one-third of Wisconsin farmers were either uninsured or only had catastrophic health insurance coverage. The Farm Bureau said those farmers who purchased their own increase paid 93% more in premiums and out-of-pocket costs, compared to those who get insurance from off-farm employment. The average out-of-pocket cost for farmers purchasing their own health insurance is $8,826, compared to $4,245 for those obtaining insurance from off-farm sources.
The response from the Republicans? During the last campaign, Assembly Republicans offered up increased pricing transparency and health care savings accounts. So they are basically offering a program for farmers to see more clearly the health care they can't afford and a tax cut they can't afford to take advantage of as a "solution."
Note to Wisconsin Republicans: This is a big part of why you lost the senate and nearly lost the assembly. You laughed at the very basic commercial on health care done by farmer Kathleen Vinehout in her campaign to unseat Senator Ron Brown, but the commercial and her campaign speeches all talked about an issue that many Wisconsin residents are really struggling with every day. And that's why she won.
The Wisconsin Health Care Partnership Plan is a bold plan that seeks to get everyone in the state health care coverage and make it more cost effective by simplifying our health care system. It would be comprehensive coverage with co-pays and everyone would be allowed to buy into the plan.
People like Huebsch who are ideologically opposed to the government solving the health care crisis, while they use their own government paid-for health care, like to say this plan will be the biggest tax ever on Wisconsin businesses. There are two problems with that argument. One, is that businesses aren't stupid. This is money they are already shelling out and the total grows in giant leaps every single year. Two, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO had a study done on the program and found that it would have saved money for Wisconsin employers.
As the rising cost of health care continue to eat at business profits, more of them will be looking for a bold solution like the Wisconsin Health Plan. Wisconsin businesses cannot compete with businesses based in other countries without a radical reform of our health care system. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO, the Wisconsin Health Plan bill's bipartisan bill authors Senator Decker and Representative Terry Musser, and now the Farm Bureau know this and are looking to make big changes.
Wisconsin Assembly Republicans can either help develop major reform or lose their majority to a group of people that will.
UPDATE: I have mixed up which comprehensive health care proposal Huebsch was referring too. The message doesn't change, but the proposal are different. Huebsch is referring to the Wisconsin Health Plan or the Gielow/Richards plan (AB1140), not the Wisconsin Health Care Partnership Plan introduced by Decker and Musser. Both have bipartisan backing and numerous groups behind them. The Assembly Republicans should get in the game instead of trying to stop reform from happening.