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Health Overhaul States

Demonstrators hold signs in May during a health care rally in Salt Lake City.

As the U.S. Senate moves swiftly and quietly to kick 23 million citizens in this country off of existing private market health care, we have to ask ourselves: What will be left in Wisconsin when Congress is done?

The Wisconsin Legislature should take action now to protect our citizens and our robust private health insurance market. One way is by protecting preventive care coverage and passing a state law saying that in Wisconsin we value health care. What does that mean for you? Annual physical without co-payments or other costs. Children need annual wellness checks for development milestones and even to participate in sports and summer camps. Adults need annual care for common cancer screenings and other serious medical condition prevention. Preventive care saves everyone money by identifying and treating chronic medical conditions proactively. We should pass the preventative health care coverage guarantee now, Senate Bill 267.

Pre-existing conditions are another significant barrier for health insurance coverage that was addressed in the Affordable Care Act. Asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer's, a cancer gene, high blood pressure, even obesity are pre-existing conditions that insurance companies could refuse to cover under TrumpCare. Allowing health insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions means that people will simply not have health insurance. Medical bills are the biggest cause of U.S. bankruptcies, and the Affordable Care Act reduced people's medical debt. Discrimination against those with pre-existing health conditions will raise health care costs and personal medical debt — and is simply morally wrong. Senate Bill 265 should be passed.

Annual and lifetime limits are other notable barriers to health insurance access. Having birth defects, cancer when you are young, or a significant accident could mean that you bump into annual or lifetime limits on care coverage. Senate Bill 266 eliminates those limits. Cancer does not discriminate, so why then is the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives considering these limits? Because their own health insurance is secure and not at risk from their own actions. It is easy to take away health care from other people when you sit securely knowing your own family is taken care of if something happens.

Action is also needed now to protect essential health benefits for the people of Wisconsin by passing Senate Bill 268. Gov. Walker has said he would consider dropping some of our essential health benefits if allowed to do so under federal law. Which ones will Walker drop? Newborn care and childbirth? Emergency services? Prescription drugs? Chronic disease management? Drug treatment or rehabilitation services? Think this does not matter or is far off in time? Keep in mind that as soon as President Trump announced he may allow states to deviate on essential benefits, Walker jumped out front and said “sign Wisconsin up.”

Finally, the Trump budget and Republican plan would also cut Medicaid funding in half, jeopardizing care for Wisconsin’s children, elderly and disabled. When Wisconsin loses half of the money we receive from the federal government for health care for those that qualify for Medicaid, there will be a dramatic negative effect on the public health of every community in Wisconsin.

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Let’s not gamble with the health of Wisconsin’s citizens. Let’s do what is financially and morally right and pass protections now in Wisconsin to ensure our basic health care benefits are protected no matter what politicians decide in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the bills that protect Wisconsin citizens health care access contact my office at 608-266-6670 or sen.erpenbach@legis.wi.gov. Also contact your governor, state senator and state representatives and tell them to support protections in Wisconsin for your family and community. Gov. Walker: 608-266-1212; Wisconsin Legislative hotline 1-800-362-9472.

Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton represents the 27th District in the Wisconsin Senate.

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