Not that long ago we in Wisconsin had a state that was looked up to as being ahead of the game in the area of health care for our citizens. But all that has changed. The Walker administration’s refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, even as other Republican-led legislatures did take those funds, has led to a situation in which we taxpayers pay more for less. Not only have Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA); they have done everything they can to subvert its implementation, threatening the health coverage of tens of thousands of their own citizens. They have increased the cost of health care, while decreasing the services available to people throughout the state, but especially in rural communities. Elderly and disabled persons are vulnerable to the political forces driving health care, not the least of which is privatization, which has the potential to drive costs up even further. Not only are health services out of reach financially for many people, some services are difficult to obtain in our district, most notably mental health services.
Only recently did Wisconsin Democrats manage to stop Republican-led legislation designed to kill the IRIS program—a program dedicated to helping elderly and disabled persons remain at home rather than being forced into extended care facilities. As a registered nurse and former home health and hospice nurse, I have seen how staying in one’s own home with loved ones makes a difference not only in better mental health, but in positive outcomes for people, their families, and their communities. Since the legislation was pulled prior to a vote, there is no way to know how my opponent would have voted, but it would be a fair assumption that it would have been along party lines to end the IRIS program.
Although the ACA has done a great deal toward insuring more people, many of those plans require such high deductibles that people still have trouble being able to use their insurance. And if Wisconsin citizens don’t have the income necessary to pay insurance premiums it is impossible to even obtain it, so access is denied to those who need it most. I will support legislation designed to provide an insurance safety net so that all Wisconsin residents have some ability to pay for health care during times of illness or injury.
Finally, recognition that mental health issues are matters of basic public safety, I will do my best to see that people suffering from mental illness receive the treatment they need, and work to decrease the stigma associated with it. This includes working with law enforcement officials to provide drug courts and treatment for addiction, versus incarceration.
Our land. Our kids. Our future. Let me be our representative!