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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

Issue of the Week: Repealing Health Care Reform Is the Wrong Move

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Well, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen got his wish: lots of headlines, of course, and the ability to join Florida’s lawsuit to challenge the federal health care reform law.

Wisconsin’s Republican members in the House of Representatives got their wish, too, by voting for the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” last week.

Fortunately both efforts are public relations stunts, because a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) would have some real consequences.

Repealing the law would prevent Wisconsin from saving $365 million in the Medicaid and BadgerCare programs over the next five years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan state Legislative Fiscal Bureau. So if Republicans are serious about crafting a fiscally prudent state budget, repealing health care reform isn’t going to help them.

Other reforms that have already kicked in would be killed. For example, almost 15,000 young adults in Wisconsin are now eligible to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they turn 26. That benefit would be gone. Almost 18,000 seniors received a $250 check last summer to help fill the Medicare Part D donut hole. Will seniors have to pay that back to the government? The PPACA also banned insurance companies from dropping policyholders once they get sick and from imposing a lifetime limit on care, changes that greatly improve consumer protections for more than 3.5 million Wisconsinites. Do these 3.5 million Wisconsinites really want to purchase insurance that’s worthless once they get sick? Doubt it. And then there are the 89,000 small businesses in the state that are eligible for a tax credit on their 2010 taxes. Repealing PPACA would kill that tax cut immediately.

Republicans have to face facts: The federal health care reform law was passed legally after a year of debate and scrutiny. It will survive legal challenges. It is the law of the land.

However, when a bill of this magnitude is passed, there always are some glitches or unintended consequences that need to be corrected. If Republicans or Democrats can come up with alternatives that actually save the government, the health care industry, patients or policyholders more money than the current law—while protecting consumers and improving outcomes—it would be a real service to their constituents. Taking symbolic votes and joining politically motivated lawsuits won’t improve our health care or our finances.

Heroes of the Week

City Year Youth Volunteers

While politicians and talking heads point fingers over the low percentage of Milwaukee students who graduate from high school, one group has taken direct action to provide positive change.

City Year, a national organization whose efforts in Milwaukee are supported by local businesses and charitable foundations, offers young people 17-24 years old the chance to be tutors, mentors and role models in high-risk neighborhoods for a full year of service. As part of City Year’s school-based mission, youth volunteers provide academic support and after-school assistance and organize activities that improve the learning environment for everyone.

The group also works to physically transform communities by planting urban gardens, building play spaces and refurbishing community centers. Young, civic-minded people willing to make a vital difference in the long-term health of the community are encouraged to apply by visiting the group’s local website at www.cityyear.org/milwaukee.aspx or calling their offices at 414-223-0150.

Jerk of the Week

Former State Sen. Jeff Plale

He’s back! (And still causing trouble.) After voters ousted him in last fall’s Democratic primary, former state Sen. Jeff Plale has landed a cushy job working for Republican Gov. Scott Walker. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Plale has always worked in the interest of Republicans, even when he was a Democratic legislator. (Remember Plale’s last-minute deathblow to the Clean Energy Jobs Act last spring? The special-interest lobbyists sure do.)

Now that Plale is out of his job as a state senator, Gov. Walker has given him a $90,000-a-year job as an administrator in the Division of State Facilities. One of his first tasks as Walker’s appointee was to kill the proposed biomass plant at UW-Madison, a major innovative green energy project. One of Plale’s last acts as a state lawmaker, during the lame duck session, was to vote with the Republicans to kill the pending labor contracts, at the same time he was angling to be hired by Walker.