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Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010

Issue of the Week: What Health Care Reform Is—And Isn’t

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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First off, we want to say that we were very sorry to hear about Republican lieutenant governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch’s recent cancer scare and we wish her the best in the future. But when she broke this personal news to her supporters, Kleefisch took the opportunity to make it into a political statement and to provide misinformation about federal health care reform. “My story also illustrates how dire my future might have been if we had socialized medicine. What if the government had told me I had to wait in a six-month line to get a CT scan? Or that I couldn’t have Dr. Ludwig perform the surgery?” she e-mailed.

The problem with Kleefisch’s statement is that health care under the new federal reforms will look a whole lot like Kleefisch’s current health care. The candidate is married to a state employee—Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc—and state employees are offered a variety of private (not “government”) health insurance plans that compete for customers in the marketplace and are regulated by the state. This setup is very similar to the state-based exchanges that will be launched by 2014. So thousands of Wisconsin residents will receive the same options that Kleefisch and her family enjoy right now. That’s a good thing.

But the state-managed option isn’t the Kleefisch family’s only option. The candidate is self-employed through Rebecca Kleefisch Enterprises Inc., a marketing firm. The family could have chosen to be covered by this small employer’s insurance plans. But apparently this small business didn’t offer a plan as good as the state-offered private-insurance plan. The family could have purchased a plan on the free market, too. But yet again, the state-offered private-insurance option apparently was the best choice for them. And under the new reforms, small employers and individuals purchasing health insurance for themselves will have far more affordable options than they do now. Again, that’s a good thing.

Another benefit of federal health care reform is that insurers are banned from denying coverage to folks like Kleefisch, who now has a pre-existing condition. The candidate, unfortunately, failed to mention this landmark reform in her comments.

“Kleefisch seems to be entirely unaware that what saved her life is exactly what will be offered under the federal reforms,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

One more thing to note: In May, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill that requires private health insurance companies to cover colorectal cancer screenings in their plans. The bill passed despite 41 Republicans in opposition in the state Assembly. One of those voting against this lifesaving screening? Joel Kleefisch of Oconomowoc.

We asked the Kleefisch campaign to comment on health care reform and whether she agrees with her husband’s vote against the new insurance screening requirements. The campaign and the candidate did not respond to the Shepherd’s request.

Staying silent may be a campaign tactic—Kleefisch also refuses to debate the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Tom Nelson.


Heroes of the Week

Project Q Staff and Volunteers

Monday, Oct. 11, marked National Coming Out Day, founded in 1988 to raise awareness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities and the issues facing those who may be struggling with coming out to friends and family.

Unfortunately, recent national news headlines illustrate that anti-gay bullying is alive and well.

The courageous youth volunteers at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center offer help through Project Q, a “for youth, by youth” development program that provides opportunities for cultural, social and emotional development in a safe, accessible space. The program also puts youth in touch with resources and organizations that meet their individual needs.

In 2010, it is unacceptable that young gay people must still cope with societal and family pressures to conceal their identities. The Project Q staff and youth volunteers help empower young adults to fully identify and express themselves without fear of ridicule or harassment. Those seeking more information are directed to www.mkelgbt.org.

Jerk of the Week

Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Ron Johnson

If the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s laughable PolitiFact project were even remotely fair, it would evaluate Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson’s blatantly false assertions about stimulus jobs. Multimillionaire Johnson has expressed an unabashed love for the free market, its “creative destruction” of American jobs, and even China’s low-wage, low-regulation economy. So it’s ironic that Johnson is blasting Feingold for supposedly creating 3,000 jobs in China via a federal stimulus package-funded wind energy project in Texas. First, Johnson’s statement is a lie; in fact, the national PolitiFact site rated this claim as being false when Sarah Palin asserted it earlier this year. The project highlighted in Johnson’s ad has not been funded with stimulus money. Second, Feingold authored the Buy American Improvement Act, which was included in the stimulus package. Feingold’s legislation strengthens federal support for American manufacturers. Lastly, Johnson’s campaign is being propped up by the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is using donations from foreign corporations to fund its campaign-related activities. Unfortunately for us, the Chamber doesn’t have to disclose its donors, and Johnson doesn’t like to talk to reporters. He prefers his carefully scripted TV commercials to speak for him, even when they’re full of lies.