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What repeal would mean for Wisconsin

January 22, 2011
In The News

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

By Rep. Ron Kind

Health care reform is good for Wisconsin. It frees families from the abuses of big insurance companies - putting people back in charge of their health care decisions. It provides increased access to affordable care for individuals, families and businesses. It rewards our hospitals providing high-quality, coordinated care. And it responsibly reduces the deficit by more than $1.2 trillion. Republican efforts to repeal this bill are political theater that wastes our time and threatens to hurt all Wisconsinites.

If health care reform is repealed, just about everyone in Wisconsin would suffer. Powerful insurance companies again would be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, cancel coverage when you get sick and raise the cost of prescription drugs. Repeal would leave 320,000 people in Wisconsin at risk of losing insurance and paying more for fewer benefits.

More than 870,000 seniors would be forced to pay co-pays for preventive services and see higher prescription drug costs as Medicare is weakened. Nearly 125,000 small businesses, the backbone of our state's economy, would lose the tax credits they were given to afford coverage for employees, limiting their competitiveness.

Repeal also would hurt our health care providers. They no longer would be reimbursed by Medicare for the high-quality care they provide, forcing them to shift costs onto families and businesses. This would make it more difficult for small businesses to operate, harder for Wisconsin to attract business and limit our economy's growth. All this, and then, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, repeal would explode the deficit by $230 billion.

And it's not just the Republicans in Washington who are pushing repeal. The new administration in Wisconsin has threatened to pursue legal action to keep residents from benefiting from the protections made possible through reform.

I think that's wrong. It's a waste of government's time and taxpayer money. State government should be working for our families to get reform up and running as quickly as possible, saving us all money.

Health care reform is already making a difference in people's lives. Under reform, children such as Henry Ferstl have a chance. His mother thanked me for supporting reform.

She wrote: "My son had a stroke, before he was even born. He wanted to personally thank you for passing this historic health care bill, but he's 13 months old, and between juggling neurologists, OT, PT and speech therapy, he hasn't found the time. Let me be his voice. As a voter, as your constituent, as a mother, thank you."

As soon as Henry was born, big insurance companies considered him to have a pre-existing condition and found him uninsurable. Health care reform changes that - it gives children such as Henry the care they need and guarantees his family will not bankrupt itself trying to provide it.

I think we can all agree that no child should be denied coverage. But Republicans in Congress and in Wisconsin won't admit that. Those who support repealing health care reform must be the bravest people around - to tell little Henry that not only do they have the ability to do something to help him and choose not to, but are completely taking away his access to care. I can't do that. No one should be able to do that.

Repeal is a serious mistake and a misuse of taxpayer dollars. Republicans haven't made an effort to change the existing bill and have not proposed a replacement. Instead, they continue to criticize the nonpartisan CBO, which has provided counsel on budgetary issues for 25 years, because the numbers do not support their talking points.

That's like telling the referee you're going to play by your own rules. They continue to mislead the public with rhetoric and myths that have been debunked repeatedly.

Instead of coming together to work to support the measures in the bill we all agree are necessary and implementing them with changes along the way, those who support repeal are digging us deeper into the hole. It is time to stop the political games and concentrate on what's best for Wisconsin families and businesses.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) represents the 3rd Congressional District. He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which had jurisdiction over the health care reform bill.