Given that there is little evidence of compromise or agreement on any real meaningful issue among Democrats and Republicans in either Washington or Madison it might then seem political leaders would jump at the chance to prove that indeed they can work for the people who elected them and get things done. It would seem that showcasing broad agreement between the parties on an issue that impacts many people, either directly or indirectly, would be a great election-year victory for everyone. Especially the party in power that wants to prove they can deliver effective policy to the voters who allow them the chance to be in the majority.
One might think all the above would be true. But it one were to apply my reasoning above to the Wisconsin State Senate one would be wrong.
The recent action–or lack of meaningful action–over the cancer drug bill is perhaps the most extreme example yet of the inability of the political process to work in a common-sense fashion. More bluntly and to the point it is the latest example of Wisconsin Republicans caring more for monied interests than the well-being of their constituents.
The bill in question would simply require insurance plans overseen by the state to provide coverage for expensive forms of chemotherapy drugs that patients take as pills rather than injections. As too many state residents know co-pays for the oral chemotherapy drugs can be cost prohibitive, and therefore a long slog has been made to get to the point of having a bill ready for passage that will address this insurance need.
The work that has been done by health advocacy groups is simply amazing, given the deep political divisions that exist in the statehouse. Regardless of the other issues that divide legislators this bill found common ground among both parties. The bill has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate and 42 of 99 lawmakers in the Assembly. It is clear that much work has been done over time to get such impressive co-sponsorship in both houses. There are enough votes in the senate for passage, but Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald said due to a majority of the GOP senators not supporting it the measure can not come to a vote.
It seems that cancer patients in Wisconsin are now being held hostage to a political need for a ‘majority of the majority’ in the state senate. That is simply unconscionable!
But as the Wisconsin State Journal reported it gets even byzantine with the aid of Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald was able to block any attempt to vote on the bill Wednesday by scheduling the measure for a hearing before the Senate Organization Committee. That committee, which he chairs, is in charge of setting the Senate agenda and does not hold hearings where testimony is taken.
Senate rules don’t allow for lawmakers to force a vote on bills that have a hearing pending. Once the Senate adjourned on Wednesday, the hearing was canceled.
There are only two more regular session days for the senate. The first is this Tuesday, and the final one is slated for April 1st.
While twenty-nine states, including Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota allow for such a law that requires insurance companies to treat oral chemotherapy drugs the same as they do other chemotherapy, Fitzgerald is playing cozy with insurance companies for political payback for his party at election time. To phrase the argument, as some Republicans do, that this bill is nothing more than a mandate on insurance companies is perhaps the best example of how out-0f-touch they are with the people they purportedly represent.
Sit down at any kitchen table in this state and ask people about health care, cancer treatments, and insurance companies and then stand up in front of them and spout the rhetoric that ‘This bill is a mandate and should not pass’ and see if you get a second cup of coffee.
I will not argue the moral side of this story, as that seems so far removed from the GOP leadership talking points that it will make no difference.
For the rank-and-file voters this bill matters, and as such they need to call and email their legislators that the political games need to end. Pass this bill this session!