Lawmakers and government officials highlight open enrollment, encourage people to vote
Sen. Tammy Baldwin highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act during the Madison stop on the “Lower Costs, Better Care” national bus tour. Photo by Baylor Spears/Wisconsin Examiner
Sen. Tammy Baldwin along with other lawmakers and government officials spent Halloween day encouraging Wisconsinites to take advantage of the health insurance open enrollment period and touting Democrats’ recent health care accomplishments.
“Halloween is a celebration of scary things, and what’s most scary to me is people who don’t have health insurance,” Baldwin said at a morning event at Sauk Trails Clinic.
The open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, 2023, is a once-a-year opportunity for families, individuals and small businesses to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace — the online platform established by the ACA where all plans listed meet certain minimum requirements of coverage.
Around 212,000 Wisconsin residents opted for coverage through the Marketplace in 2022, according to a recent report by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. This was an increase of about 20,000 people compared to the previous year. The same report estimated that around 312,000 residents remain uninsured in the state.
Several organizations including the Office of the Commission of Insurance, the Department of Health Services and Covering Wisconsin, a state navigator agency, are coordinating efforts to reach people across the state to help residents reevaluate their existing plans or enroll in new coverage.
“Adults who were uninsured for more than six months in the year are more likely to have substantial medical debt and people who have medical bills that they can’t afford often end up delaying the care they need or skipping the care entirely,” said insurance commissioner Nathan Houdek at an event at Pinney Public Library. “In other cases, families have to dip into their savings accounts…, and we feel that nobody should have to make that choice.”
Strategies to increase sign-ups include hosting enrollment events at public libraries, posting on social media and connecting people to state navigators who can help them figure out the best plan for them.
Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates — looking to win some votes in next week’s elections that will determine control of Congress, the governorship and the Wisconsin Legislature — also used the day as an opportunity to praise Democrats’ recent health care accomplishments.
Baldwin, Rep. Mark Pocan and representatives from Protect Our Care, a health care advocacy organization, highlighted the Inflation Reduction Act during the Madison stop on the organization’s “Lower Costs, Better Care” national bus tour.
“The Inflation Reduction Act was desperately needed,” said Joe Zepecki, state director of Protect Our Care Wisconsin at the event. “For far too many the cost of health care has been increasing by thousands of dollars a year. The Inflation Reduction Act is going to address that, giving families the breathing room they need to pay for rent and food gas.”
The 2021 Inflation Reduction Act built on previous legislation by extending a policy that caps premiums for all Marketplace enrollees at 8.5% of their income until 2025, allows the government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with companies and caps insulin costs for seniors on Medicare at $35.
Baldwin, who is not up for reelection this year, spoke about her support of the ACA when it was a bill and of the Inflation Reduction Act. She also took aim at Republicans and specifically Sen. Ron Johnson, who is running for reelection against Democrat Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
“I was so proud to vote for the Inflation Reduction Act to protect seniors and to stand up to big Pharma and its abuses,” Baldwin said. “You know what our other senator was proud to do? He was proud to stand on the sidelines shoulder to shoulder with the big corporations and drug companies.”
Johnson has consistently opposed Democratic health care proposals during his time in office. He voted against the Inflation Reduction Act and in March suggested that Republicans should repeal the ACA if they regain control of Congress and the White House.
Pocan, who is running for reelection against Republican Erik Olsen for the 2nd Congressional District, agreed with Baldwin’s criticisms of Johnson. He also spoke from personal experience when telling people to look into open enrollment when it starts tomorrow.
“I’m on the Affordable Care Act, as is every member of Congress, and five years ago this week, I had a triple bypass and I was served extremely well by the care that was afforded through the Affordable Care Act,” Pocan said. “I encourage everyone when the open enrollment starts tomorrow, if you don’t have health insurance, please look into it, it’s absolutely worth it.”
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