Monday, February 21, 2011

Medicaid in Wisconsin: What's At Stake? How Can I Help?

Rose and I held signs at the front of the room at a press conference yesterday. The event was held to draw attention to the stealth attack on Wisconsin Medicaid in Governor Scott Walker's "budget-repair" bill. Several hundred people overflowed the room, braving freezing rain to come out and show support.

"Stealth attack" is not too strong a term. As I've written before, the Medicaid-related part of the bill is flying almost entirely under the radar, overshadowed by the outrage over the attempt to break public-employee unions (including public school teachers & librarians, setting the stage for immense cuts in education to come.) Now that events in Wisconsin have hit the national news, the story line is still all about the unions.

There's an excellent new article in the Capital Times called "Why Such Little Outcry Over Bill's Impact on Medicaid Programs?" (The same reporter interviewed Rose after the press event. We shall see...) It's been a complex story to try & tell, because the upcoming cuts aren't actually in the current bill. What's in the bill is the unprecendented and undemocratic authority to make future cuts behind closed doors, with neither legislative oversight nor public input.

Now that the press event has given me an eagle-eye view of who all could be affected, I'm more appalled and worried than ever!

Medicaid, otherwise known as Medical Assistance (MA), provides a health-care and community support safety net for the most vulnerable in our state -- seniors, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, people with low incomes -- using a combination of state and federal funding. Over 1.1 million people in Wisconsin, around 20% of our state's population, use some form of Medicaid. Numbers have been on the rise due to the impact of the recession.

The newly-formed Medicaid Matters Alliance, the organizers of the press event, provided the following information, which I quote here directly with a few asides:

• 775,000 children and adults have basic medical coverage in BadgerCare
• 90,000 Wisconsin children and adults with severe mental illness use Medicaid services
• 9800 children and young adults (0-21) with severe disabilities utilize Medicaid community based supports and medical coverage [Personal note -- Joy is among this number]
• 20,500 people with developmental and physical disabilities stay independent at home and in their communities with Medicaid funded supports [Personal note -- Joy will be among this number in the future, if the program is not eviscerated]
• 18,000 seniors stay independent at home and in their communities with help from Medicaid
• 90,000 Wisconsin seniors rely on SeniorCare for affordable prescription drugs

We don't know yet who amoung those 1.1 million will be targeted in the upcoming cuts, nor to what extent those targeted will be hit -- and if the bill passes, we won't know until after the cuts have been made and it's a done deal.

The speakers at the event were varied, passionate, compelling. We heard from:

-- A retiree for whom Medicaid is the only thing that has allowed her to scrape by and live in her own home, after the recession decimated her retirement savings.

-- a woman who has spent half her life with quadriplegia due to a car accident, whose active and productive life in the community is at risk (and who would rather die than be warehoused in a nursing home)

-- several people for whom Medicaid is a lifeline for aid with mental illness issues, either for themselves or their children

-- a woman who lived with an abusive partner for 12 years, who could not have taken care of her injuries without MA, nor could she have left him without MA healthcare for her children (2 of whom have disabilities)

And the stories kept coming. This has the potential to devastate SO many people, each with their own story that has brought them to need medical-assistance help.

There should be thousands of people storming the Capitol on this issue alone!

But the word is only starting to spread.  And the people whom this most affects -- seniors, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, people with low incomes -- are not the ones with the resources to be easily able to hit the streets.

And if Governor Walker had his way, the stealth attack on Medicaid would have already been passed by now.

How You Can Help

People in Wisconsin: Governor Walker is saying that he's only hearing from people who support his position. Contact him and tell him that you oppose the undemocratic Medicaid process changes, and that they need to be removed from the bill. 608-266-1212, or

There are four Wisconsin state senators who have yet to state a position on the bill. If you live in their districts, contact them with the same message as for Gov. Walker -- or if you know anyone who does live in their districts, get them to make the contacts! Click the links for contact information:
-- Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center, District 17
-- Sen. Michael Ellis of Neenah, District 19
-- Sen. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, District 10
-- Sen. Robert Cowles of Green Bay, District 2

For Anyone: To get updates directly from the coalition fighting to preserve our voice on Medicaid in Wisconsin, sign up at
-- "Like" the Save BadgerCare Coalition on Facebook or visit their website.
-- Join the Medicare Matters Alliance Google Group

Anywhere in the US that the Wisconsin story is being reported at all, a letter to the editor of your local paper would be a welcome help.

And finally, a fun morale-booster action step: Buy pizza for the protesters! Ian's Pizza by the Slice just off the Capitol Square, 608-257-9248, has been getting orders in from all over the country (& world). JoyDad and Rose and I availed ourselves of the pizza-generosity after the press event. Good stuff, great morale-booster!

Thank you so much for all you do. Keep spreading the word, friends!

P.S. TinyURL for this post is -- please tweet widely!

(Tomorrow's post: Joy's friends make signs on her behalf)


BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I'm not in your state but I wrote this morning thanks to your information. I just received an email from our Autism group stating what our governor is going to cut. Respite care (which we just signed up for last week) will be on the list. I hope more people become outraged about these issues.

JoyMama said...

Thank you BWMFA -- every voice counts!

Clare F said...

I've recently been introduced to your blog thanks to the world of facebook. Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your careful, well-written posts. I recently moved to NYC from Madison where I was heavily involved in the autism community - teaching yoga to kids on the spectrum, and completing a masters thesis in classroom design for autism. I hope and wish for all the best for Joy and her family, that this political mess doesn't end half as badly as I fear it will.

JoyMama said...

Thank you Clare! We'll keep on keeping on here -- even a vote in the wrong direction wouldn't be the end. Only the beginning, really. Still hoping for the best on this first round, though!