Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 10:55 am
Lost in all the hullaballoo about Miss California’s support of “opposite marriage” during the Miss USA pageant last week was this unbelievable answer from Miss Arizona, when asked if she supports universal health care:
That made more sense than anything the Wisconsin Democrats supporting “Healthy Wisconsin” have said to this point.
Healthy Wisconsin was supposed to be the centerpiece of the 2008 election. That’s why Democrats, public employee unions and other liberal special interests banded together last year to advocate for the $15 billion government run health care plan. They promoted the plan at public forums statewide and organized a campaign to get advisory referenda in support of government guaranteed healthcare on the ballot in 20 Wisconsin communities.
Healthy Wisconsin passed the Democratic State Senate on a strict party line vote last year, but as details of the plan came to light, State Senators in swing districts started backing away from the plan which was stripped from the budget by the Republican Assembly.
Both the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau and The Wisconsin Legislative Council issued memoranda stating that the plan would cover illegal immigrants. People who do not work or live in Wisconsin would also qualify for coverage in many cases.
In recent weeks, candidates who previously expressed support for Health Wisconsin are jumping off the bandwagon like rats from a sinking ship. As their opponents and independent issue groups educate the public about their support for the plan, these candidates have engaged in an all out effort to deny facts, destroy evidence, and discredit their critics. To that end, candidates have gone as far as to remove or alter information posted on their campaign websites, complained bitterly to the mainstream media about untrue attack ads, and tried to intimidate television and radio stations into pulling advertising from the airwaves.
Candidates have not succeeded in stifling the ads because the claims in the ads are well documented facts, the sources of which are often footnoted in the ads themselves.
In Sunday’s Eau Claire Leader Telegram, two disgruntled candidates complained about unfair issue attacks but the candidate’s opponents were quick to point out the facts which are documented and footnoted in advertising and direct mail messages.
Darcy Fields, the Eau Claire Republican challenging (State Representative Jeff) Smith, said he believes the All Children Matter ads are fair because Smith has expressed support for Healthy Wisconsin and the bill would have allowed illegal immigrants access to health care.
“Jeff has recourse if he thinks that stuff’s untrue. He could file suit or seek a court injunction, but he doesn’t. He just whines,” Fields said. “This is a dirty business, and you shouldn’t run if you can’t take it.”
In fact, the Eau Claire Leader Telegram reported Smith’s support for the plan in 2007 and again in 2008. Another Eau Claire area candidate denies supporting the Healthy Wisconsin Plan, yet in an interview with Wisconsin Eye on July 9, 2008, Kristen Dexter said, ““Healthy Wisconsin was a very well put together plan.” “So, I would support some sort of Healthy Wisconsin type, or some sort of health care for all.”
In Green Bay, candidate Lou Ann Weix convinced the editorial board of the Press Gazette that her support for the Healthy Wisconsin plan was completely made up. Unfortunately for Weix, copies of the SEIU Endorsement letter previously posted on her website are still in circulation:
SEIU Wisconsin State Council Announces Endorsement of Lou Ann Weix for 90th Assembly District
Milwaukee – Citing Lou Ann Weix’s thirty years as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and her position on health care, nurses, janitors, school employees, and other workers represented by the 15,000-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Wisconsin announced their support for Lou Ann Weix candidate for the 90th Assembly District.
“I am impressed by Lou Ann Weix’s commitment to fixing our broken health care system,” stated Dian Palmer, a registered nurse and president of the SEIU Wisconsin State Council. “Lou Ann understands that families in Wisconsin have been suffering too long from rising health care costs.”
As a state legislator Lou Ann will support policies to provide reliable, comprehensive, affordable health care. This includes support of Healthy Wisconsin, which would ensure everyone in Wisconsin has access to quality care.
Dane County candidates Trish O’Neil and John Waelti are likewise feeling the heat. O’Neil, who told Wisconsin Eye she thought Healthy Wisconsin was a good place to start is now saying claims of her support for the plan are utterly false. O’Neil is also endorsed by fellow nurse and Healthy Wisconsin champion Senator Judy Robson. Robson said, “I look forward to having her in the legislature so that together we can pass the necessary legislation to assure all people access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
Waelti recently altered the phrasing on his campaign website. Note the changes below:
Affordable Health Care The United States is the only “advanced” economy that does not offer some form of universal health care. The increasing burden of health care costs should be addressed at the federal level. But since it is not, it must be addressed at the state level. An ideal system would be a single payer system not tied to employment. Some version of the previously proposed “Healthy Wisconsin” plan should be enacted to ensure that every Wisconsin resident has access to an affordable health care package. This would not only be the right thing to do for our citizens, but would take the burden off small business and increase the competitiveness of all Wisconsin business enterprises.
It’s quite obvious Assembly candidates are jumping off the Healthy Wisconsin bandwagon in the final weeks of the election. The real question is why Assembly leaders ever allowed them to get on board in the first place.
Last week, when WPRI released our report detailing the massive amount of unfunded liabilities local governments are carrying for their retirees, I honestly didn’t expect much of a counter-argument. How could there be? The facts are indisputable. In fact, the best shot a local official took at an explanation was the Superintendent of Waukesha Schools, who unbelievably argued that their financial system is sound because it’s like a mortgage. It’s difficult to think of a worse comparison, given the fact that mortgage lending is currently sending our economy down the tubes. He actually would have been better off saying something like, “our financial system is as safe as the Green Bay Packers with the indestructible Aaron Rodgers at the helm.”
Yet lo and behold, on the very day the report was released, the liberal Citizen Action of Wisconsin attempted to respond to the facts in the report. And needless to say, I remain unconvinced that there is a rational response to the argument we made in the study.
Citizen Action said the “ultraconservative” WPRI report missed the mark because it failed to discuss the fact that health care costs are rising so quickly. (Personally, I would have preferred “mega-conservative,” as it sounds more like we can crush cars with our bare hands, like Optimus Prime.) In fact, one of the reasons the report didn’t go into detail about increasing health costs is because we just released a 20-page paper on that exact topic.
But the main problem with local government retiree health insurance isn’t that the costs are going up too quickly – it’s that the benefits exist at all, and that their existence are going to swamp local budgets in the very near future. If local governments hadn’t attempted to pad their employees’ pockets with this previously publicly undisclosed benefit, they wouldn’t be in the position of having the taxpayers bail them out – which almost certainly will happen. And the rising cost of health care has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these governments chose to spend billions of dollars on ex-employees that no longer work for the people, instead of spending the funds on existing services.
In fact, Citizen Action’s complaints about the rising cost of health care actually strengthens the immediacy of the WPRI report. We focused on the fact that local governments owe $6 billion in future unfunded liabilities – the fact is, that number is going to increase rapidly over the next few years, both because governments are underfunding their liabilities and because costs are going up.
The truly ironic fact is that Citizen Action is continuing to push their dead-in-the-water “Healthy Wisconsin” single-payer government run health plan. That would be the plan passed by the Wisconsin Senate that all the new Democratic state senate candidates are avoiding as if it were a pair of garage sale underwear. They actually believe that their plan, which would have government completely take over health care in Wisconsin and cost taxpayers $15.2 billion, would actually solve this problem of increasing health care costs. In fact, it would do nothing to slow health costs – it would merely change who pays for them.
A perfect example of how health care costs explode when government takes them over was evident last week, when the state announced that the new BadgerCare Plus program would be $25 million over budget in its first year of existence. The BadgerCare program itself was the same story – in Fiscal Year 2001, the first full year of BadgerCare’s operation, the Legislature spent $129 million in all-funds revenue. By Fiscal Year 2004, merely three years later, that number had nearly doubled to $205.6 million. Consider the retiree health costs that are now being reported, and it’s absurd to argue that somehow costs drop when the government gets involved.
So, it appears Citizen Action’s response to increasing health care costs is to exacerbate the problem by making taxpayers foot the bill. While we’re at it, maybe we can solve the economic crisis by guaranteeing more bad housing loans and asking the taxpayers to pay for it. Wait… we’re doing that?
Finally, Citizen Action criticizes WPRI for supposedly “singling out” government employers for their budget mismanagement. In fact, our report discusses postemployment benefits for private businesses, and how they began to address their liabilities in 1990, to the point that they are now manageable. Furthermore, a previous WPRI study demonstrated that public sector postemployment benefits far exceed those of the private sector. Plus, businesses generally don’t have the taxpayers there to bail them out when they mismanage their liabilities, as governments most certainly will.
It’s hard to fault Citizen Action of Wisconsin for not reading the whole report, though – they’re busy during election season trying to elect Democrats to the Wisconsin Legislature and using state funds to do it.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 4:04 pm
While the state dangles perilously on the edge of fiscal catastrophe, Lieutenant Governor Barb Lawton this week took a taxpayer-expense paid trip to Buffalo, New York, to the National Lieutenant Governor’s Association meeting. During this important meeting, Lawton authored a vital piece of legislation that urged states to push for better health care for their citizens. Lawton’s press release brags:
BUFFALO, NY. – The National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) today unanimously passed a resolution, authored by Wisconsin Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, a Democrat, and sponsored by Hawaii Lt. Governor James “Duke” Aiona, a Republican, committing the national organization’s members to work toward making affordable, quality health care available to all Americans.
The resolution, passed at the group’s annual meeting, earned co-sponsorship from a bipartisan coalition made up of more than half of the nation’s lieutenant governors. NLGA members pledged to support bipartisan legislation that employs multiple strategies to provide access to high quality, affordable health care; increase awareness of personal opportunity and responsibility to protect personal health, improve the value of every health care dollar spent, and ensure that businesses, government, and individuals all contribute to an improved American health care system.
“Access to affordable, quality health care coverage stands as a major obstacle to economic growth in all of our states,” said Lawton. “My colleagues and I are one in our resolve to provide critical bipartisan leadership and initiate innovative collaborations to build a health care system that works well for everyone.”
Why stop there? Why not introduce a resolution urging the Brewers to win the World Series?
Here’s a suggestion: How about offering real alternatives, instead of wasting taxpayer money on this meaningless jibberish? Honestly – we paid Barb Lawton to travel to New York to pass a resolution that says absolutely nothing. On the other hand, if this is what single-payer supporters consider to be “progress,” then more power to them.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 12:09 pm
Last week, George Lightbourn and I released a report that demonstrated that the proposed “Healthy Wisconsin” government health plan would run a large deficit. As expected, proponents of the plan pushed back – yet without addressing any of the concerns raised in the report.
I chuckled when I saw the following quote from State Senator Jon Erpenbach in Friday’s Wispolitics REPORT, referencing the study:
I don’t know where they’re getting their numbers, and second of all I’d like to know who backs them financially on this stuff. - Healthy Wisconsin sponsor Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, on the WPRI report.
First of all, it’s pretty easy to figure out where we got our numbers, since we lay that all out in the report, which Erpenbach clearly didn’t read. In fact, most of our data comes from the Lewin Reports on both the Wisconsin Health Plan and Healthy Wisconsin – reports which Erpenbach himself commissioned and uses to bolster his plan. Maybe he should get around to reading those, too, since he paid for them.
In fact, the math is pretty easy – the state Department of Revenue expects incomes to rise at 4.6% per year over the next 10 years. The Lewin Group expects health care costs to rise 6.5% per year over that same time. That creates a gap that has to be funded – and the Lewin Group itself says the plan will have to raise taxes in the future to make up the deficit. If Erpenbach disagrees with that premise, perhaps he should get his money back from the Lewin folks.
The second irrelevant criticism leveled at our report is to question our funding. This is even more entertaining, since people who spend all day polluting comment threads on blogs somehow aren’t able to perform a Google search to research WPRI’s funding. But, of course, this is all just a sideshow to distract people from the actual criticisms of the plan that we level – since proponents of the plan don’t really have an answer. Regardless of our funding (and honestly, I don’t even really know much about it), the facts are the facts – just ask the group commissioned by Jon Erpenbach to research the issue.
And as long as we’re on the funding issue, it might be instructive to look at who’s funding Jon Erpenbach’s effort to get Healthy Wisconsin passed. You may remember last year, when Erpenbach may have violated state law by co-mingling lobbyist money with his campaign funds to produce a poll showing support for Healthy Wisconsin.
Lawmakers who joined with interest groups to conduct a poll on a proposed universal health care plan might have violated campaign finance laws by taking money from groups not authorized to make political contributions.
State Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy hadn’t seen all the details of the arrangement Tuesday but said Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) might have benefited from special-interest funds that aren’t allowed into the electoral process.
The two senators contributed campaign funds toward a poll also bankrolled by groups that cannot give to candidates.
If the interest groups had paid for the poll themselves and simply given it to the senators, there would be no trouble, Kennedy said. Potential problems have arisen because the poll combined political and non-political money.
“Our concern would be to make sure non-political money wasn’t providing a political benefit” to the senators, Kennedy said.
Oops. Maybe Erpenbach, who thinks we should use taxpayer money to run political campaigns in order to lessen the influence of lobbyists, should start the effort by actually adhering to the law himself.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 3:32 pm
Today, WPRI released a report which discusses the Healthy Wisconsin health plan proposed by Senate Democrats. The report, written by George Lightbourn and yours truly, makes two main points:
Healthy Wisconsin is government-run health care; and
Healthy Wisconsin will run large deficits, since personal income won’t keep up with health care costs.
Most informed observers would have the following reaction to the report:
This is actually a fairly reasonable response. But I should mention a couple things that justify the need for this report. First of all, the authors of the Healthy Wisconsin plan maintain that it isn’t government health care. Take the following quote from Senator Jon Erpenbach:”We didn’t want it where it was a government-run type of system. We wanted to keep it in the private sector.”
With statements like that framing the debate, we thought it necessary to show that the plan is, indeed, government-run health care, and that it would have a massive effect on other government-run programs.
Furthermore, the fact that it is government health care is relevant beyond just making the plan’s authors look wrong. The fact that the program will likely run large deficits will have a largely negative effect on other public sector health programs, and would likely force higher taxes to plug the deficit. The Lewin Group actuarial report, which Senate Democrats use to support their plan, actually concedes that taxes will have to be raised in the future beyond the levels authorized in the plan.
Yet perhaps the most interesting part of the report is the reaction it has received since its release this morning. Plan proponents, such as the group One Wisconsin Now, have proven themselves completely incapable of discussing the merits of the plan. They laughably fall back on the old tried and true talking points, such as how “Big Oil” is responsible for all this. Like 3rd graders, they go after co-author George Lightbourn, calling him “bankrupt.” I’m surprised they somehow couldn’t work Alberto Gonzalez into their talking points.
My only reaction to this is to express a little disappointment they didn’t go after me, too. I feel a little left out, seeing as I am clearly morally bankrupt. Maybe I should e-mail them some examples so I can work my way into their next release.
Plan author Jon Erpenbach also issued a press release denouncing the report. In their defense, you have to give both Erpenbach and One Wisconsin Now credit for their consistency – neither of them actually read a word of our report. Both issue sweeping bromides about health care for all and such, yet never approach the actual subject matter of the report.
So for those of you brave enough to actually read the report, criticisms are certainly welcome. But the main theses of the study are fairly solid, and even backed by data that supporters of Healthy Wisconsin are themselves circulating as support for their program.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 6:35 am
A much-discussed graphic has surfaced on the internet, which graphically demonstrates the leading causes of death in the United States. It has come to be known as the “death spiral” chart. Apparently, it was originally developed by National Geographic magazine a few years ago to give people a visual representation of what they were most likely to die from.
Here it is:
The first thing I noticed was the “total odds of dying, any cause: 1 in 1.” Man, I need a better bookie.
Strangely, they also list “Air/Space Accident” on the list. How many deaths are attributable to “Space?” Does that count the aliens that come down to Earth to off us?
What I found most interesting about the graph is that the leading cause of death, heart disease, is also the most preventable. Study after study shows that eating right and exercise drops the risk of heart disease exponentially. Yet the threat of death doesn’t appear to be enough to scare people into living healthier lifestyles. That may be the true benefit of this graphic.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 10:51 am
In my previous post dealing with how universal health care will make Wisconsin a magnet for the nation’s sick, I made a quick point that actually deserves more attention. As it turns out, people may not even need to move here to have Wisconsin taxpayers foot the bill for their health problems.
Under the “Healthy Wisconsin” bill, an individual is eligible for full benefits immediately if they are “gainfully employed” in the state. Once one person is “gainfully employed” (as defined by the Healthy Wisconsin plan’s board), “the person and the members of the person’s immediate family are eligible to participate in the plan.”
But wait – while there’s a catch. The bill requires an individual to live in the state for 12 months and have a “substantial presence” in Wisconsin (the time limit requirement would be legally questionable in court). However, once they’re “gainfully employed in this state,” those requirements disappear. So what is “gainfully employed” in Wisconsin? If someone lives in Arkansas but owns businesses in Wisconsin, are they gainfully employed in this state? Is an independent contractor who lives in Colorado but contracts with Wisconsin business gainfully employed in Wisconsin? Apparently, the board would have to decide.
What is clear, however, is that once a single individual in a family is eligible, everyone in that person’s immediate family is immediately eligible. And there are no residency requirements for family members. (I have verified this with legislative attorneys.)
As a result, a father of eight in Georgia could move to Wisconsin, get a job at a hot dog stand, and his wife and all of his children would immediately be eligible for taxpayer funded health care, paid for by Wisconsin residents. And the family wouldn’t have to move an inch. For any family in America facing expensive care for a child afflicted with autism or multiple sclerosis, their prayers would be answered just by having one immediate family member qualify in Wisconsin.
Anyone who thinks this isn’t incentive enough for people in South Carolina or Indiana to take advantage of this program are willfully deceiving themselves. As I previously mentioned, the health care crisis for people not already on Medicaid-based programs isn’t a Wisconsin problem – it’s a national problem. In fact, Wisconsin’s MA program, Badgercare, even has a residency requirement tougher than Healthy Wisconsin.
As a result, it makes sense that the other 49 states would beg Wisconsin to enact the program – it would alleviate them of all the health care costs they’re currently paying for their sickest individuals. Suddenly, Mississippi’s budget would look a lot better when we’re paying for their citizens’ health care.
Filed under: Health Care — Christian Schneider @ 8:42 pm
On Monday, the Senate Health committee went through with a hastily-called hearing on their “Healthy Wisconsin” government-run health care proposal. Why Senate Democrats would continue to ram through a $15.2 billion tax increase in a week with virtually no public input, thereby exposing their plan as the most expensive campaign talking point in American history, is puzzling.
During the hearing, one of the speakers laid out the entirely plausible scenario (heard here first), that Healthy Wisconsin would attract people needing free health care from all over America, leaving Wisconsin taxpayers to foot the bill.
The proposal’s lead (and only) author, Senator Jon Erpenbach, argued that other states have Medicaid programs, so undesirable poor people wouldn’t be flooding into Wisconsin to take advantage of the benefits. According to the authors, the proposal isn’t intended to take care of people already on Medicaid – its target is those who can’t afford increasing health premiums but don’t currently qualify for public health care. He snapped that Minnesota likely has “Gophercare” and Illinois likely has “Illinicare,” so those people would be covered in their home states.
Yet this explanation exposes a contradiction in the Democrats’ argument. Let’s take them at their word that there’s a crisis among people that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough money to afford health care premiums. Or among people with pre-existing conditions that can’t get health care. Is this a problem that is unique to Wisconsin? Wouldn’t those desperate people be just the kind that would be moving to Wisconsin to take advantage of the Cadillac benefits in the new program?
On the one hand, they argue that the crisis among this group is severe enough to warrant a full government takeover of health care in the state. Yet they also argue that there is no crisis with regard to people in identical situations in other states, which would be enough for one family member to move to Wisconsin. Which is it? In fact, Wisconsin ranks near the top of the nation in the percentage of citizens insured – if anything, these people are likely in a lot more dire situations in places like Arkansas and Mississippi.
Add in the fact that A) any waiting period for people to get full health benefits will likely be struck down in court; and B) it appears that once one individual moves to Wisconsin, their whole immediate family is covered, whether they actually live in Wisconsin or not; and the migration theory becomes even more plausible.
Of course, this is only one small argument against a full government takeover of health care. All the others will surely be vetted in the 84 hours between introduction of the plan and passage on the floor of the Senate.