Thursday, June 15, 2006

Doyle Wisely Pushing Health Care Reform

While Governor Doyle initially proposed the BadgerCare Plus program at his State of the State address back in January, health care reform hasn't taken center stage in his election campaign. That appears to be changing.

The Wausau Daily Herald has an article today about a speaking engagement Doyle had with health care providers and officials yesterday in Wausau. At the forum, Doyle pushed BadgerCare Plus as a way to ensure broader health coverage for children and families in the state and simultaneously reduce administrative costs.

The BadgerCare Plus plan would merge the existing state-run health care programs Medicaid, BadgerCare, and Healthy Start into a single program. The total savings from the merger are estimated at $20 million annually and the single program is expected to serve 500,000 Wisconsin residents, many of whom are children.

The state is planning to seek a waiver from the federal government next month to merge the programs (which receive some federal funding). The waiver is expected to be approved in time for the governor's 2007-09 budget proposal next February, giving the Doyle Team a strong talking point this election season. After all, would Green support the merger if the waiver is approved?

The premise behind reducing costs and broadening access under BadgerCare Plus is the same that fuels the arguments for universal health care across the country, which center on reduced administrative costs in a centralized insurance system.

I wish Doyle would put his support behind one of the three universal health care reform proposals currently before the state legislature, or some combination of them, but pushing the BadgerCare Plus program is a significant step in the right direction.

And, equally as significant, it's nice to see the Doyle Team putting health care reform at the forefront of this campaign. It's an excellent compliment to embryonic stem cell research not only because of the medical connection, but also because the two are both popular issues on which the Green Team has no comparable alternative to offer.

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Side-Note: There's no question Doyle's talk in Wausau yesterday had absolutely nothing to do with my post from yesterday on the need to make health care reform a premier issue in the current campaign -- but, hey, a guy can still dream.

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