Health Overhaul Wisconsin

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton  speaks at a news conference accompanied by Rep. Jimmy Anderson, right, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Madison, Wis., to warn of "rationed" health care for Wisconsin residents under a Republican health care plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act. 

The head of the Wisconsin Hospital Association is urging Gov. Scott Walker to parlay his influence with the White House and his role as head of the Republican Governors Association to make significant changes to the health care overhaul bill that stalled Thursday due to a lack of support.

Hospital Association President Eric Borgerding outlined more than a dozen points of concern in a letter marked as hand-delivered to Walker on Monday. Borgerding has been speaking publicly this week about the group’s concerns and its estimate that 311,000 people in the state would lose insurance coverage by 2026 under the GOP plan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, had planned to hold a vote on the bill Thursday but delayed it as he and President Donald Trump continued to try and reach a deal to secure its passage. Walker and Ryan are close political allies and grew up near one another in southern Wisconsin.

In his letter to Walker, Borgerding said Wisconsin is penalized under the bill for rejecting federal money to expand Medicaid while it’s paying $280 million for its own unique partial expansion. He also said that reductions in federal subsidies would hit Wisconsin particularly hard, since its model relied on those just above the poverty level having access to money that would go away under the current House GOP bill.

“We urge you to pursue changes to the legislation to help preserve the Wisconsin Model and access to the high quality care for which we are known,” Borgerding wrote.

Walker didn’t take questions about the health care bill at a Capitol news conference Thursday where he announced a gummy bear factory would be locating in Wisconsin. His spokesman, Tom Evenson, didn’t immediately reply to a message seeking comment on the letter.

Health care advocates and Democrats held a series of events on Thursday blasting the Republican bill and calling for changes to preserve the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.”

Democratic state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, of Fitchburg, who was paralyzed after a car crash that killed his parents and younger brother, said the current law was his only “glimmer of hope” when facing insurmountable medical bills after the 2010 crash.

Anderson was about to hit his insurance’s lifetime limit when provisions from President Barack Obama’s signature law kicked in and changed that. Speaking at a Capitol news conference, Anderson said the GOP proposal would have “real consequences for real people.”

“If Republicans were to simply repeal the Affordable Care Act, it would somehow take health insurance away from fewer people than the plan they are proposing,” he said.

Courtney Kessler, a 23-year-old Janesville native who graduated from the same high school as Ryan, said that the bill’s proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood would force her to decide between paying her rent and seeing a doctor. Kessler, who now lives in Madison, said the organization is her only source of health care and provides vital screenings for ovarian cancer, which runs in her family.

“I work three or four jobs each week, none of which are able to offer me insurance,” she said, noting she makes slightly too much to qualify for Medicaid.

People in Wisconsin are “terrified” about the proposed changes to the federal health care law being pushed by Republicans in the House, Democratic state Rep. Melissa Sargent, of Madison, said earlier Thursday at a forum bringing together policymakers and the state’s health care leaders.

“We can’t overstate the impact this will have on the people we care about, provide services to,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health, a nonprofit Madison law firm that helps people get health care.

Peterson called on the 100-plus attendees at the meeting to be a “strong voice in opposition” to the bill that would repeal the 2010 federal health care law.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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