Reviews | How this rural Wisconsin county put state-funded, nonprofit national health care on the ballot

Citizens of Dunn County, Wis., planned to place state-funded National Health Care for All in their Nov. 8 ballot. In June and July, at County Board of Supervisors meetings, many spoke of a broken health care system and their proposal to fix it. After the third meeting, the Board voted unanimously to ask the following question on the ballot paper:

“Should Congress and the President of the United States enact into law the creation of a state-funded, non-profit national health insurance program that would fully cover the costs of medical care for all Americans? ?”

Located in west-central Wisconsin and blessed with lakes and farmland, Dunn County is far from bustling cities. About 16,000 of its 45,000 residents live in Menomonie, the county seat, named by the Smithsonian as “one of the best small towns in the United States.”

“No one in my family is going to retire sitting pretty and the main reason for that is having to pay medical bills, even though we were insured, for months and months and months, and that’s money that we haven’t spent on all the things you can spend money on here in beautiful Dunn County.

By focusing on the health care crisis in America’s heartland, Dunn County residents hope to propel the issue onto the nation’s agenda. They believe rural concern for neighbors could outweigh resentful partisan division and, with the idea spreading, sway a Congress that has, until now, refused to consider Medicare for All.

On July 27, 2022, between the oath of allegiance and the story of the progress of the departmental fair despite the storm which destroyed the electric milking machines, they presented themselves at the microphone of the Supervisory board meeting to insist that those who represent them allow their voices to be heard in an electoral referendum.

Margie Hagerman of Menomonie spoke first. “Health care for the majority of Americans has declined in recent years with lower life expectancies than other developed countries. Other…countries have found ways to cover everyone through a national insurance system disease nonprofit Why can’t the US?

“If you hold a referendum, you give the people a voice – you have to because we only exist by the consent of the people,” said Michel Brandt.

John Hoff said “currently the pharmaceutical drug system is totally against the individual – yes, they’re working on something in congress, but it’s only for 20 drugs”.

Tom Walsh spoke about his son, a small business owner, who since the Affordable Care Act has paid $750 a month for insurance with a $5,000 deductible. “He can have one physical exam a year, it will be free… but the rest he pays out of pocket. We need Medicare for All basically to save small business owners, save people who are likely to go bankrupt because they can’t afford their insurance and if they have it the deductible is so high that really doesn’t help much…so we really need a national health insurance program.

Steve Hogseth drew attention to the 23 countries ranked highest for their democracy and claimed that, among them, the United States was the only one that did not have some form of universal health care. .

Lenore Mercer spoke about working at a clinic when the former governor suspended Badger Care. “I will always remember a clean, hardworking, full-time employed dad who broke down and said I don’t care about myself, but about my kids, how will they get to see a doctor? I thought it was so wrong.

“Our for-profit system is driving up profits for insurance companies and drugmakers and now millions of Americans can’t afford health care,” Mercer concluded.

Retired doctor Lorene Vedder ended her comments by asking those in favor of putting the measure on the November 8 ballot to please stand. All pink.

Monica Berrier, Dunn County Supervisor for District 13, spoke at the Legislative Committee Meeting. “I want to make the point that it is really in the interest of the county to advocate for a better health care system…I will do that from the perspective of our budget and if the current system is a responsible use of taxpayers’ money. taxpayers.

She said the county spends about $500,000 a month on health insurance, and in the 2022 budget, $10 million of a $90 million budget was earmarked for health insurance. The $90 million is not just for staff, but includes all county operations.

“So we’re spending a lot, but when we compare that to what the employees actually get, it’s a really bad deal. They are part of a system where delays and even outright denials of care are commonplace. I believe that as elected officials and stewards of taxpayers’ money, we have a responsibility to demand better from the federal government that serves us.

Berrier exposed it. “I want to wrap up by thinking about what we could do with that money instead. We all know that the budget process boils down to spending more than fifty dollars here for a hundred dollars there. A few months ago we had a good discussion about the tax on wheels and many of us, myself included, are concerned about the potential impact it could have on people who don’t not the means. For comparison, the Wheel Tax only raises $700,000 each year and that’s peanuts compared to the $10 million we’re supposed to be spending on health insurance this year…instead of us wring our hands on the wheel tax, we could just fix the roads instead. I think we, as elected officials, really have a responsibility to advocate for a more efficient healthcare system.

Dr. Vedder had spoken earlier to the Dunn County Executive Committee. “My main concern is the decreasing life expectancy that we have in this country. If you compare Canada to the United States, they live 4.5 years longer than us. In 1970, we lived the same life expectancy life, then why do we see this difference?

“People are afraid here in our country to access health care because of the excessive cost of medical care – 30 million people in this country do not have health insurance, 44% do not have the necessary funds to get medical care even if they have insurance.

“We have far less access to health care than any developed country in the world. By avoiding health care, our people… come to the emergency room when it is too late to treat them, their disease is too advanced. We put people out of business for medical bills – nowhere else in the developed world do people go out of business because of their health.

Someone announced that the matter would be placed on the agenda of the Legislative Committee.

Health care advocates prepared to speak to the Legislative Committee meeting July 20. At a few minutes per person, they filled the first 35 minutes of the meeting. Dr Steve Brown said his wife was using health care services in Portugal, receiving x-rays, lab services and intravenous antibiotics. She was diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease and received good care. He said that even though they didn’t have travel insurance, the bill was reasonable, around $160.

Trego’s Steve Carlson spoke about a precedent in Wisconsin for a health care ballot question fourteen years ago when county voters agreed that everyone in the state should have health care coverage. health equal to that of civil servants. He said residents of Washburn, Douglas and Portage counties are working to put referendums, like the one currently being proposed in Dunn County, on the ballot for the spring election.

Louisa Gerasimo spoke about medical bills that depleted retirement savings. “No one in my family is going to retire sitting pretty and the main reason for that is having to pay medical bills, even though we were insured, for months and months and months, and that’s money that we haven’t spent on all the things you can spend money on here in beautiful Dunn County.

The Hager Commission noted that this issue has generated the most public interest and comment since the expansion of the ATV County Road. Supervisors voted unanimously to place the question on the ballot. Speaker Kelly McCullough said: “It looks like we’ll get the referendum fine…that also answers the question of putting pressure on your legislators – is it working – it looks like it’s going to be fine.

Rural health care is in deep crisis. More 800 rural hospitals are threatened with closure. Rural doctors struggle to survive on meager Medicaid payments. Mergers and acquisitions accelerate the pain as hospitals are taken over by those whose sole concern is profit. Delayed care causes untold suffering and death. Is it possible that the people of these rural communities, under the stress of a broken healthcare system, could spark a movement to fix healthcare for the nation?

Some people in Dunn County think so and are working to make it happen.

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