Scott Walker Doesn’t Care About Wisconsin Children




So much mayhem has resulted from Governor Scott Walker‘s recent announcement that he plans to tackle the state of Wisconsin‘s financial woes on the backs of its workers that few people have noticed the other cost-saving, blood-letting measures he is proposing. In a proposal designed to give Walker essentially unlimited power to dismantle the state’s Medicaid programs, our new governor has decided that he and his Department of Health Services should be able to make whatever changes to those programs they see fit without having to go through the messy steps of having those changes approved by the Wisconsin legislature. Instead, he wants to have any and all changes rubber-stamped by the Legislature’s budget committee alone, and with an all Republican, super conservative budget committee , that should not be an impediment to Walker’s whims.

Once this proposal has been approved – and it will be this week – the fate of Wisconsin’s medical assistance programs will be in the hands of Dennis Smith, Walker’s newly appointed secretary of Health Services. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, or strike fear in the hearts of Wisconsinites, it should. Smith has been a vocal advocate of states simply opting out of Medicaid altogether. He testified last month before Congress in opposition to the health care reform act passed last year. And in perhaps the most damning example of his lack of insight or reason, in 2007 he contributed $250 to Tommy Thompson’s campaign for President . In his recent role as a regular contributer to the uber-conservative “think tank” (and I put it in quotes because I am often convinced that very little thought goes into their diatribes) The Heritage Foundation, he has talked with paranoia about the unlikely scenario of taxpayer funds being used to fund abortions through Medicaid , and imagined a “radical social agenda” in the economic stimulus package.

I think it is safe to assume that under Smith, and with Walker’s approval, Wisconsin’s Medicaid programs are toast. Those programs, that go by the names BadgerCare, BadgerCare Plus, SeniorCare, and FamilyCare, provide health care for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites. BadgerCare alone had 459,007 children enrolled as of January 2011. It allowed 18,629 pregnant women to obtain prenatal care in January, and was providing health insurance coverage for 253,317 adults as well. In addition to providing what many people consider a necessity, BadgerCare also saves money that would be spent on uninsured people who require emergency medical care. A study in 2006 showed that BadgerCare had saved $283 million over six years in uncompensated care costs that Wisconsin hospitals would have eaten – and then passed along to all of us.

Medicaid has its flaws, as does any other insurance plan, private or government funded. But if there are approximately 1,400,000 children under age 18 in the state of Wisconsin, and 459,007 of them receive health care under the state’s Medicaid insurance plan, then cutting Medicaid funding out of the state budget will mean that one third of our children in this state will have no health insurance. That means no coverage of immunizations, no well child care, no interventions for health concerns, no urgent or emergent coverage, no developmental assessments, nothing.

Financial concerns are serious, but depriving a third of our children access to basic and necessary health care is unconscionable. 


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