U.S. Senator Ron Johnson's troubled "Victims of Government" series has added yet another episode and if Redd Foxx were around he would surely be clutching his chest saying this is the big one-- hear that Elizabeth, I'm coming to join ya!
The latest "victim" is Kathi Rose, a 62 year old pastor in Neenah. She had breast cancer 20 years ago and after that found getting health insurance an impossible task because of her pre-existing condition.
Luckily, Rose quickly discovered that Wisconsin had something called the Health Insurance RiskSharing Plan (HIRSP). The state-managed HIRSP system was adopted in the early 1990s and was funded through a combination of patient premiums and a surcharge on "regular" health insurance plans in the state. HIRSP also mandated that health care providers treat HIRSP patients at discounted rates.
Generally speaking, HIRSP members loved the plan, because they were getting subsidized rates that were cheaper than what was available on the private market. This was because state statutes required that 40% of the HIRSP members’ premiums be paid by surcharges on the insurance programs of “regular” health plans, and by reduced charges from doctors. In other words, we were all paying 40% of Kathi Rose’s premiums.
Health insurance companies and health providers didn't like the plan because they were paying for it through taxes/surcharges and mandated discounts.
So, it’s 2013 and everything’s going hunky-dory for Rose, until she gets a letter from the HIRSP Authority saying that, because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, HIRSP will cease to exist as of January 1, 2014.
Remembering President Obama’s promise that "if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance," Rose becomes enraged and calls up Senator Johnson to relay her tale of woe.
Johnson jumped into action and before Obama knew what him, BAM!, another "Victim of Government" was making its debut.
The only problem with this story is that Johnson failed to check one key element of this story: The reason why HIRSP was killed had nothing to do with the ACA.
HIRSP was axed by Governor Scott Walker in his 2013-15 biennial budget.
Walker claimed, on the one hand, that he wanted to protect Wisconsinites from the evils of the ACA, while with the other hand he killed HIRSP with the conflicting logic that it would no longer be needed because the ACA was coming and would fill all the needs of those on HIRSP.
Plus, the HIRSP taxes and subsidies were annoying to the health insurance companies and the health care providers, so they've been looking for an excuse to kill HIRSP for years-- and they got it when the ACA came along.
But, make no mistake, if Walker and the Republican controlled legislature wanted to keep HIRSP in place, they could have easily done so. But they didn't-- they proactively axed the program.
So, Kathi "victim of government" Rose had a government health plan but that government health plan gets canceled by a Governor that supposedly hates the ACA, but is more than willing to throw people into it if it helps his friends in the health insurance and hospital business.
Even more humorous, Rose's central complaint is that she supposedly has to pay more under Obamacare's moderately subsidzed exchange plans than she did under her heavily government subsidized HIRSP plan. Plus, it has been clearly document that a long line of bad Walker decisions have driven up the cost of the plans of Wisconsin's exchange plans. If Rose lived in Minnesota, for example, she probably wouldn't be paying more under the exchanges than she did under HIRSP.
Victim of government? Nah, just another victim of the governor.