Dear Editor: I am a primary care physician in Madison whose clinical and educational work focuses on maximizing equity in health outcomes for Wisconsinites, and I keep a close eye on state-level legislation to make sure our government stays focused, too. I was very disappointed this week to see the Joint Finance Committee strip our state budget of components key for achieving health equity in Wisconsin. The decision not to expand Medicaid is an obvious failure in that respect, but it’s hard to be disappointed by something I knew we could never get. However, I am very disappointed by the removal of funding for Focus on Energy.
The climate crisis is one of the key health equity issues of my lifetime. Wisconsin has made significant progress toward decarbonization, but we need more progress in energy efficiency to keep momentum. Residential energy efficiency in particular can decrease our stark health inequities. We know that Wisconsin households with high energy burden and low energy efficiency are more likely to be Black or Latinx. These households are more likely to defer necessary medical treatments, experience food insecurity or face electricity disconnections. When disconnected from electricity, patients with diabetes cannot refrigerate their insulin, patients with asthma cannot run their dehumidifiers, and patients recovering from pneumonia lose their oxygen supply.
Focus on Energy is a successful, proven program that decreases electricity use and saves more money than it uses. The JFC’s choice to strip support for it from the budget is a head-scratching loss for my patients.
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