Thursday, April 28, 2011

Autism Insurance: They Were For It! (before their party/ALEC was against it)

I've continued thick and fast with the advocacy here in Wisconsin. So much going on, with such blinding speed. Is it possible that it's only been two-and-a-half months since this assault started for real, with the "Attack on Wisconsin Families" bill (which its proponents liked to call the "Budget Repair Bill" -- a moniker that would have been laughable if it weren't so serious.)

I can't even address the unbelievable sequence of events in the WI Supreme Court race -- you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. Instead, let's go for some more advocacy, OK?

As I wrote in a previous post, Now They're Coming for her Autism Insurance, there is some ugly legislation waiting in the wings to be introduced at the Capitol. Two bills, written by ALEC under the names of Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), are poised to destroy not only the autism insurance mandate that we worked so long and hard to achieve, but also every other insurance mandate in the state of Wisconsin. A very similar bill has passed both chambers of the Arizona legislature, and lacks only Gov. Brewer's signature to spell disaster for their autism insurance mandate [UPDATE!] has been vetoed by Gov. Brewer! Woohoo! (But we can't count on any such veto happening in Wisconsin...)

The Republican party in Wisconsin has been marching in lock-step on ALEC ideas, from corporate handouts (ongoing) to the weakening of consumer legal protections (January) to the evisceration of collective bargaining (currently tied up in the courts).

Funny thing about autism insurance, though.

There are more than a couple of Wisconsin GOP legislators -- still serving today -- who were FOR autism insurance before ALEC and the GOP collaborated to ride the Tea Party wave AGAINST insurance mandates!

Here are the currently-serving Republican state representatives who co-sponsored autism insurance legislation in the Assembly in both 2007 and 2009:
Rep. Dean Kaufert (R - Neenah)
Rep. Alvin Ott (R - Forest Junction)

The autism insurance bills never came to a standalone vote in the Assembly. In the 2007 version they ended up voting instead on an altogether-different (and unacceptable) substitute amendment; the 2009 version was then incorporated into budget legislation so it wasn't a separate vote. So we don't have a voting record on autism insurance in the Assembly. We do know, however, that the following currently-serving Republican state senators voted for autism insurance on 2007 SB178:
Sen. Robert Cowles (R - Green Bay)
Sen. Alberta Darling (R - River Hills)
Sen. Michael Ellis (R - Neenah)
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R - River Falls)
Sen. Dan Kapanke (R – La Crosse)
Sen. Luther Olsen (R – Ripon)

That makes a total of eight currently-serving Republican Wisconsin state legislators who took tangible recorded legislative action in favor of autism insurance.

Before their party / ALEC wrote the (not-yet-introduced) legislation that would kill it.

Then there are the Democrats on the record -- voting or co-sponsoring -- in support of autism insurance as well.

Co-Sponsoring Democratic Senators:
Sen. Spencer Coggs (D - Milwaukee)
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D – Middleton)
Sen. Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay)
Sen. Robert Jauch (D - Poplar)
Sen. Julie Lassa (D - Stevens Point)
Sen. Mark Miller (D - Monona)
Sen. Fred Risser (D – Madison)
Sen. Lena Taylor (D - Milwaukee)
Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D - Alma)

Additional Aye-Voting Democratic Senators:
Sen. Tim Carpenter (D - Milwaukee)
Sen. Robert Wirch (D - Pleasant Prairie)

Co-Sponsoring Democratic Assembly Representatives
Rep. Therese Berceau (D – Madison)
Rep. David Cullen (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. Jason Fields (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. Gary Hebl (D – Sun Prairie)
Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D - Fort Atkinson)
Rep. Margaret "Peggy" Krusick (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. Cory Mason (D - Racine)
Rep. Joe Parisi (D – Madison) -- just elected to Dane County Executive!
Rep. Mark Pocan (D – Madison)
Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (D – Middleton)
Rep. Jon Richards (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. Donna Seidel (D - Wausau)
Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D - La Crosse)
Rep. Christine Sinicki (D - Milwaukee)
Rep. John Steinbrink (D - Pleasant Prairie)
Rep. Robert Turner (D - Racine)
Rep. Leon Young (D - Milwaukee)

If you live in the district of any of the aforementioned legislators, here's how you can help.

Contact your legislator by phone, e-mail, or postal mail -- you can look them up online. Consider postal mail if you have time and can spare the stamp! They get less of that than they do phone/e-mail these days, so the impact may be greater. There's also plenty of time for a letter to arrive and be processed, since these bills may not be introduced until the legislature convenes in the fall (but if we put legislators on notice NOW, maybe we can even keep the measures from being introduced?)

Tell them these things:

1) Thank them for their past vote / co-sponsorship for autism insurance.

2) Tell them that autism insurance not only helps people who are able to access it, but also saves the state on Medicaid expenses! (Your personal autism-insurance story goes here if you have one.)

3) Ask them to be consistent with their previous stance by joining you in opposing LBR0373 and LRB1529, which would undermine all of Wisconsin's insurance mandates (including autism insurance)

4) Make sure to include your full street address with your signature.
I've already made a personal visit to Sen. Darling's office, with Joy at my side, to address this issue. Since I'm not a constituent of hers, I didn't get a direct visit with the senator, but I did make an appointment and had a reasonably good conversation with a staff member.

More opportunities to get your lobby on!


Suze said...

Will do, Joymama. Thanks for providing all this information. There is so much going on here, it's sometimes hard to keep up.

Lapin d'Indigo said...

My sources say that adding intensive autism therapies to insurance costs between $1 and $5 per policy per month (depending if you use optimistic or pessimistic assumptions). The math says that it is smart to keep the coverage on so many levels, practical and political.

As I have mentioned in my e-mails to you, our AZ governor had a bout of sanity and vetoed the bill that would have effectively taken autism coverage from 30% of AZ children. I never thought I would say this to anybody, but I think our governor may be more sane than yours - better that you depend on a veto like we did and stop this in the legislature.

JoyMama said...

Suze -- thanks so much! I agree, terribly hard to keep up.

Lapin d'Indigo -- thanks for the reminder to update the post! My thought is that Brewer is at a very different point in her career than Walker is. Walker has rising-star aspirations, and is trying to make a name for himself. Brewer is much further along in a career... maybe starting to think about what the history books might blame her for? Anyway -- thanks for the comment!