BadgerCare Plus was one of the best pieces of legislation former Gov. Jim Doyle ever came up with. Although health care on a national scale may be floundering, it’s always good to know the people of Wisconsin have the option of affordable health care – well, until last Friday, that is. Gov. Scott Walker’s health officials announced they would try to cut $500 million from the program by mid-2013, which means 50,000 Wisconsinites could lose their benefits and 215,000 could be receiving the bare minimum.
Currently, Wisconsin has 1.1 million people enrolled in Medicaid, or about 1 in 5 state residents. With this enrollment trend mirrored across the country, funding is drying up at the national level for the program. That’s where BadgerCare Plus came in: to supplement the dwindling amount needy Wisconsinites were getting from the federal government. The program was so popular, in fact, that many who were eligible had to be turned down.
For months, almost all I’ve written about is the valuable programs Walker’s budget cuts have hurt. This offense, however, is the gravest to date. As reported by the Associated Press, “The two-year state budget Walker signed into law in June capped enrollment in the Family Care program, which provides care to keep people at home rather than in nursing homes,” as well as called for about $444 million in further cuts.
The new criteria would lower the income level needed to participate in BadgerCare Plus from $37,060 for a family of three to $24,645. By this measure alone, about 50,000 low-income Wisconsinites would be ousted from the program. Furthermore, individuals and families who have access to employer-based insurance or who have insurance that they contribute that is less than 9.5 percent of their household income. Lastly, 215,000 people that meet the criteria to be included in the plan would receive a barred down version of services previously available to them.
I’ve previously advocated for pouring money into education, clean water, transportation and so many other social causes I’ve lost count. But when things get bad, my grandma always says, “Well at least you’ve got your health.” I would be reticent to admit it, but all those programs I love so much could shoulder cuts if it meant working Wisconsinites could have affordable healthcare. According to the same Associated Press article, Robert Kraig, director of the consumer advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said the state could fill the Medicaid hole by making cuts elsewhere and requiring the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes.
There are, in fact, some measures that have proven beneficial in other states, such as the practice of having doctors use electronic records to better communicate with their patients and track their medical visits. Thankfully, the new sweeping cuts won’t affect SeniorCare, the state’s program to provide discount drugs to seniors. However, some of the people that deserve the help that BadgerCare Plus provides the most are those being bumped off the eligibility list. Just because you skim off the top of those able to receive care doesn’t mean they won’t still need supplementation to cover their medical costs.
Recently, my best friend from high school didn’t have the money to have her cavities filled, and instead had to go with the cheaper option – having them pulled. Doubtless, there are many more who have faced even scarier decisions when it comes to health care. It is just impossible to think that $500 million worth of cuts won’t diminish the quality of care Wisconsinites receive. Everyone deserves help for better medical care if they need it, regardless of what they earn and especially because those being turned away are the hard-working Wisconsin residents struggling to make ends meet.
Taylor Nye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a junior majoring in archaeology, biological anthropology, and Latin American studies.