Motivated by the current (2011) political climate in Wisconsin it seems reasonable to devote some time and effort to comment on issues and some of the hyperbola. So we in the public should do what we can to help focus "journalists" on delineating real facts versus spin. If you accept the spin you do not understand the policy implications.
Notes/Edited 4/14/2013 - Walker Budget and GOP are moving just as hinted - discrimination is their bottom line whether it is healthcare, taxes or %1 - watch twitter, news headlines, JFC hearings, etc. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ I originally wrote this on 2/11/2011 and sent it to the Wisconsin State Journal's Opinion Page - it was not published so I thought I would put it up here!
The WSJ headline, “ Budget - Walker: We must cut the power of unions “ is a disturbing introduction to your first cup of coffee (Friday, February 11, 2011). But of course this is a continuing saga under the guise of “open for business”. It really seems more like a race to the bottom. The Governor's legislative agenda seems designed so far to disenfranchise legitimate voters, remove citizen protection from gross negligence in nursing homes, etc.
Now he seems intent on limiting access to health care either by making it more difficult to know how to participate in Medicare (WSJ – Insurance Official says no to grant) and through Attorney General Van Hollen declaring that in Wisconsin “federal health care is dead ...” with a few caveats.
I was shocked to learn from the Wall Street Journal (2/2/11) that 1 in 7 of our citizens in Wisconsin rely on Food Stamps! How many do not have health care? What's the unemployment rate – about 9%? Any state employees on Food Stamps?
Governor Walker's proposal for state employees to pay 12% (vs 6%) of their health care premium may seem reasonable to many. I am sure he can afford it on an income > $137,000 but what about the state employee that makes less than $30,000. That 12% is not against salary, it's against a flat amount, assume annual medical premiums ~ $12000. So our Governor sees a ½ percent decrease in his income. Our race to the bottom employee sees an impact almost five times greater (2.4%). The governor can pay for this increase in a little over a day but our employee labors for over a week!
Even more troubling, in a letter by the Governor to state employees, he directs -
“the Group Insurance Board to implement changes to health insurance plan designs to further reduce premiums by 5 percent and will implement health risk assessments for all state employees beginning on January 1, 2012. “
What does this mean? Sounds like a clever way of saying you are going make some employees pay more for their health care than others!? Older employees perhaps? Diabetic employees maybe? Employees with preexisting conditions? With Governor Walker putting himself in charge of agency rule writing and review – who knows? There are over 191,000 state annuitants, who may or may not have associated health care, which they pay for in full – are they going to be impacted?
Update: Evidently there are 500,000 participants in programs administered by ETF of which approximately 191,000 are annuitants (per WisStateJournal/Judy Newman 3/3/2011).