After crashing face-first into the pavement of a Madison bike trail last fall, Kevin Gostomski probably wasn't thinking about his lack of health insurance.
However, five months, two surgeries and $18,000 in hospital debt later, the 24-year-old college graduate's mind is set on obtaining low-cost medical coverage.
At a press conference with Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton Wednesday, Gostomski urged legislators to approve one of Gov. Jim Doyle's budget proposals that would expand access to the state health insurance program — called BadgerCare Plus — to approximately 150,000 citizens.
In his budget, Doyle proposed funding coverage to several new populations, including 71,000 childless adults with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Gostomski said he would have been eligible under this expansion for BadgerCare Plus coverage during his accident last October.
While riding his bike to work downtown, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate said his front wheel came off, and he crashed into the pavement. Meriter doctors told Gostomski the crash broke his jaw in two places and chipped his tooth, he said.
The resulting emergency surgery cost around $21,000, but a review board later reduced the cost to $7,500, Gostomski said. His total assets amounted to no more than $10,000.
Earlier this year, Gostomski underwent surgery again because his jaw was not healing correctly. The procedure cost around $10,000 and is currently under review for reduction, Gostomski said.
"It's not that I don't value what they do — I very much appreciate everything they've done there," Gostomski said. "Just without insurance, I can't afford what they provide at this point in my life."
Lawton, who promoted BadgerCare Plus on behalf of the governor, said it could expand access to 98 percent of Wisconsin citizens.
"Naturally, some provisions receive immediate critical attention," Lawton said. "But I have yet to hear one person say that it is a bad idea to ensure that 98 percent of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality, affordable health care coverage."
Some opponents of the budget proposal say Badgercare Plus is not the most effective way to expand health coverage and could come at a great cost to taxpayers.
Tuition break for veterans bill sent back to author
A bill that would give free tuition at any University of Wisconsin System school or technical college to spouses or children of certain military veterans went back into the hands of its author Thursday.
The Assembly's Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs sent the bill back to state Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, because committee members expressed concern over the bill's language.
Committee Chair Terry Musser, R-Black River Falls, said the bill may be too broad and give too many state veterans the benefit.
Under current law, surviving children and spouses of Wisconsin military veterans who were killed or incurred some level of disability during duty may receive full tuition remission.
Schneider's current bill proposes expanding remission to the family members of veterans who have continuously lived in Wisconsin for 15 years prior to the applied academic semester.
Musser said the bill presented was not what Schneider intended and added Schneider was quick to realize the necessary changes. Schneider did not return messages from The Badger Herald seeking comment Wednesday.
When the bill returns to committee, Musser said he would support the legislation and try to reduce the residency requirement to five years.
"It's a reward for people who take the time to serve their country," Musser said. "It's a small 'thank you' we can give our veterans and their families."
Musser said the committee will approve or reject the bill March 21.