Voters give BadgerCare a mandate
November 23, 2014 by Robert Kraig and Kevin Kane
Advisory referendums asking Wisconsin to accept enhanced federal dollars for BadgerCare won by a landslide on Election Day.
The referendums won decisively even in areas that also supported Gov. Scott Walker and conservative legislative candidates, who have opposed taking the dollars provided by the Affordable Care Act.
Statewide, 73 percent of voters supported the measure in the 20 counties and cities where it was on local ballots. The referendums did well in south-central Wisconsin, garnering 62 percent in Jefferson County, 65 percent in Rock County, and 82 percent in Dane County.
Since the election, many citizens across Wisconsin have asked us how voters could have simultaneously voted overwhelmingly for taking the federal money for BadgerCare and for Gov. Walker and conservative legislators who oppose the policy.
The simple answer is that when voters support a candidate for office, they are not endorsing his or her entire agenda. While a voter may agree with a candidate on many issues, research shows Americans often vote based on an affinity with a candidate’s personality, character traits and general approach to governing.
Politicians are misinterpreting elections when they assume that winning constitutes a public mandate for all of their positions. The public expects elected leaders to actually represent the views of their constituents. In the case of BadgerCare, the referendums make it clear Wisconsin voters would like the governor and Legislature to work constructively to expand access to affordable health care.
Whether they voted for Scott Walker or Mary Burke for governor, a vast majority of Wisconsin voters understand access to affordable health care is not a luxury but a necessity in the 21st century. They understand tens of thousands of young parents needlessly thrown off BadgerCare and now uninsured are one major illness away from a potentially life-threatening situation and financial devastation.
Voters of all perspectives understand that when a person is uninsured, illnesses that could have been caught early through screening and preventive care are much more likely to become serious, risking the long-term health of the patient and costing us all more in the long run.
Fortunately, there is a good way for Wisconsin to take the BadgerCare money that did not exist before. After Wisconsin turned down the money last February, a number of states received waivers from the federal government that address most of Gov. Walker’s concerns. Iowa, for example, received federal money to adopt a plan very similar to Walker’s, with extra money to make private insurance affordable for people just above the federal poverty line.
Given the federal government’s willingness to be flexible, there is no good reason for Wisconsin to leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table that could provide affordable health coverage to so many Wisconsinites.
The fact is that the majority of voters supported Gov. Walker and BadgerCare. We profoundly hope our state leaders will take the voice of the voters seriously and look for a pragmatic solution. The people of Wisconsin deserve no less.
Kraig is executive director and Kane is lead organizer for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, an advocacy group that champions quality affordable health care for everyone in Wisconsin: citizenactionwi.org.