KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wisconsin’s Benefit Backlash Spreads To Other States

The public employee reaction is occurring in other states, too, as newly elected conservative governors attempt to roll-back health and pension benefits.

The Fiscal Times: State Worker Backlash Spreads Across the Country
The public employee backlash against Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to help balance the state's budget by imposing higher health care and pension co-pays is spreading across the nation, as newly-elected conservative governors seek to roll back benefits granted during better economic times. ... The benefits battle is most acute in states where conservative governors, some newly elected with Tea Party support, have sought to focus public anger over continuing hard times on public employee benefits, which are often more generous than those afforded workers in the private sector (Goozner and Ross, 2/22).

ProPublica: Cheat Sheet: What's Really Going On With Wisconsin's Budget
Is There Really a Budget Crisis? Yes, it seems so. [Gov. Scott] Walker claims the state is facing a $137 million shortfall. ... That includes an expected $174.2 million to fund the state's medical assistance program. ... And meanwhile, the state is awaiting a court decision to determine when it must pay back an additional $200 million it owes to a patient compensation fund from a four-year-old case (Hernandez, 2/22).

The Texas Tribune: Texplainer: Can Wisconsin Happen Here?
In Wisconsin, the governor's ... proposal would raise the amount [government workers] pay for their health insurance premiums from about 6 percent to 12.6 percent. ... [Texas] currently pays 100 percent of the premiums for state employees, but both the House and Senate budgets would slash funding for ERS by almost $600 million. That could mean state employees would pay almost $100 a month for individuals or $135 for families toward their insurance costs or they face deductibles as high as almost $4,000 for individuals and almost $12,000 for families (Gonzalez, 2/23).

National Journal: Bait And Switch?
Why now? Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has sparked massive protests by proposing to curtail public-employee unions and give his administration the power to cut back health care and sell state public utilities through no-bid contracts. But while Walker argues that his budget-repair legislation must be passed soon to avoid job cuts, the most controversial parts of his bill would have no immediate effect. The state's entire budget shortfall for this year - the reason that Walker has said he must push through immediate cuts - would be covered by the governor's relatively uncontroversial proposal to restructure the state's debt. By contrast, the proposals that have kicked up a firestorm, especially his call to curtail the collective-bargaining rights of the state's public-employees, wouldn't save any money this year (Fernholz, 2/23).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: UW Hospital Surprised To Find Its Workers In Budget-Repair Bill
University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics - which doesn't receive state money directly - would be barred from collectively bargaining with its roughly 5,000 union employees under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget-repair bill. The provision surprised health system executives. "We did not anticipate and certainly did not request elimination of the right to bargain, and we have communicated this to the Governor," Donna Katen-Bahensky, president and chief executive of the health system, wrote in an e-mail to employees on Friday. UW Hospital and Clinics, which includes American Family Children's Hospital, employs 7,500 people. About two-thirds of them are represented by four unions, including 1,900 nurses and therapists represented by the Service Employees International Union (Boulton, 2/22).  

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