Neumann – No ObamaCare, cut BadgerCare
If elected governor, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann says he will do whatever he can to stop the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from taking effect in Wisconsin.
Neumann, who is running against Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker in the Sept. 14 Republican primary, makes clear in his campaign materials and speeches that he rejects a government role in providing health care coverage to Americans, preferring instead to rely on the private insurance market and tax breaks to make coverage more affordable.
Stopping what he derisively calls “ObamaCare” is priority No. 1 on his health reform agenda. On campaign stops and in debates, town hall forums and in his 210-page “Bold Plan to Take Back Wisconsin,” Neumann says that as governor he would authorize the state attorney general to join other states in a lawsuit challenging the federal health plan’s constitutionality.
The Patient Protection Act requires all Americans to have health coverage by 2014. The states suing to stop it argue that the federal government can’t force Americans to buy health insurance.
In Neumann’s view, the federal health plan will cost U.S. taxpayers too much and will limit patients’ choices in the private health care system.
“The bottom line is this,” Neumann recently told a town hall forum in Kenosha. “We will ask for a waiver (from the federal plan) and we will implement a Wisconsin program on health care based on conservative values to restore our health care system, and it should become a model for the whole country and will replace ObamaCare.”
Neumann also would push for an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution “to preserve private health care choice.”
And while Wisconsin has received national praise for ensuring that all its children have access to insurance through the state health plan known as BadgerCare Plus, Neumann and primary challenger Walker both said in their Aug. 25 debate that they favor cutting the program.
Enacted in 2007, BadgerCare Plus merged the state’s three Medicaid programs for children, parents and pregnant women into one health care plan. In 2008, the program expanded to include all children and lower-income parents, and in 2009 the program was expanded to include low-income adults with no children.
BadgerCare Plus offers two benefit plans for families to choose; one plan has fewer benefits. Families pay part of the cost through monthly premiums, which depend on income eligibility. Families whose income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level are not charged a premium.
While the program is aimed at ensuring low-income families’ access to affordable insurance, BadgerCare Plus also is available to any uninsured child under the age of 19, regardless of his or her parents’ income. According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, about 770,000 state residents are enrolled in BadgerCare Plus as of April 2010, with about 445,000 of those residents being children.
Neumann argues BadgerCare has become too big of an “entitlement” and therefore a burden on state taxpayers. As a result, he wants the program to be scaled back to focus only on people with physical and mental disabilities.
Responding to a follow-up question after the Aug. 25 debate with Walker, Neumann campaign spokesman Chris Lato said in an e-mail that “BadgerCare has to be reformed.”
Referring to BadgerCare as “welfare,” Lato said that “the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit means we have to cut spending across the board and welfare is one place that Mark Neumann will cut.”
Below are some of Neumann’s proposals, taken from his book, to lower health care costs. Neumann calls for:
- Legislation that would cap maximum settlements on non-economic damages in “unintentional” medical malpractice cases.
- Encouraging greater use of Health Savings Accounts. In an HSA, patients are covered by a high-deductible insurance plan and set aside funds into a savings account to be used for their out-of-pocket medical costs. Neumann would support legislation that would make all payments into HSAs to be fully tax deductible.
- Eliminating “unnecessary” benefit requirements for insurance companies, so that consumers could buy health plans that cover only the benefits they want, potentially through health plans with high deductibles and coverage limited to catastrophic health events. Neumann, who owns a home-building business, argues that such plans would be less expensive for individuals and small business owners.
- Allowing insurance plans to be organized across state lines, which in Neumann’s view would increase competition among insurance companies and thus lower premiums for consumers and employers.
- Allowing consumers and businesses to deduct 110 percent of the cost of health insurance from their state taxes.
- Allowing any state resident or business to participate in the state employee health plan if they pay market price for coverage. Neumann argues this would help people who can’t get coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions. Expanding the state insurance pool would help lower costs, he says.
Even though it’s sketchy on some details, Neumann’s health reform agenda, as outlined in his “Bold Plan for Wisconsin,” is far more thorough than what other gubernatorial candidates have put out there.