Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board Halts Medical Travel Subsidy For Abortions

With abortions resuming in state, supervisors hold off on medical travel program.

By - Sep 25th, 2023 06:50 pm
Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

The Milwaukee County Board voted Thursday not to advance a new program that would reimburse employees for medical travel, now that abortions are again being performed in Wisconsin.

The board considered a proposal earlier this year to create a travel expense reimbursement account for county employees who had to travel out of state to seek abortion services. After the county’s attorney’s counseled that the legislation would likely run afoul of state law, the resolution’s sponsor, Sup. Ryan Clancy, authored a new version that broadened the reimbursement account to cover out-of-state travel for any medical procedure or health care.

Had it been approved, $31,200 would have been set aside to reimburse county employees for travel and lodging costs up to $1,000. The board voted 12 to 4 set the proposal aside for now, with supervisors Clancy, Caroline Gómez-Tom, Juan Miguel Martinez and Sequanna Taylor voting in favor.

The proposal sailed through the committee earlier in the month. The only opposition came from the board’s conservative supervisors. But between then and the board’s final meeting in September, a Dane County judge ruled that the state’s abortion ban does not actually prohibit consensual procedures. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin responded to the ruling with a resumption of abortion services on Sept. 15.

The state law in question is an 1849 law that effectively outlawed abortion in Wisconsin following the overturning of  Roe v. Wade and federal protection for abortion in 2022.

Sup. Liz Sumner suggested the medical reimbursement account had been rendered moot by the recent legal decision, given that it was created in response to abortion becoming illegal in Wisconsin.

Clancy disagreed and called it “a solid policy overall.” He said the new benefit would cover employees who had not opted into a medical expense savings account the county offers.

I do think how we reworded and expanded this resolution to include health that would be needed outside of the state is actually also very beneficial to our employees,” said Sup. Caroline Gómez-Tom.

Sup. Sheldon Wasserman, who is a physician and OBGYN, said he thought the board was opening a “pandora’s box” and agreed with Sumner that the original intent of the resolution was rendered moot by the recent ruling. He noted that Milwaukee County is home to world-class medical institutions like Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“We really have a fantastic medical care system in Milwaukee,” Wasserman said.

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Categories: Health, MKE County, Politics

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