For quite a while, I have been pointing out story after story about the devastating economic impact of Act 10 and the rest of Scott Walker's agenda. I have repeatedly explained that when Walker implemented Act 10, he was redistributing the wealth from the working class to the rich corporations and CEOs. And due to the state's 175,000 public sector employees having their take home pay cut so much, this meant that they stopped paying for such niceties such as going out to eat or catching a movie.
This decrease in money circulating forced private businesses to implement pay cuts, lay off their workers and sometimes go out of business altogether. And the downward economic spiral would continue.
As Walker and his Teapublican allies continue to tighten the screws of their austerity economy, the bite is getting to be deeper. Walker and company continue to slash shared revenue with local governments - counties, municipalities and school districts - who in turn are forced to put that burden on their employees. This was evidenced recently in an article in the New York Times which pointed out that the city manager for Oshkosh, Mark Rohloff, pointed out that they are seeing a nearly $1 million hole due to Walker's agenda and a public sector worker said that she had to go on public assistance because of Act 10.
With the further cuts, workers are no longer cutting out niceties, but are being forced to cut back on necessities, such as health care. With the severe pay cuts and increases in premiums and co-pays, even if the workers have health care insurance, they cannot afford to use it. Add to this the number of people in the private sector who have seen their wages cut due to the billions of dollars taken out of the economy by Walker and the tens of thousands of people that are suffering from Walkercare and it the economic problems multiply exponentially.
And as one might have surmised, this is causing negative ripple effects in the health care field.
This sickening side effect is already being seen at Marshfield Clinic, as shown by a memo that came out on Wednesday from the president of the Clinic:
MEMOAs the gentle reader can plainly see, Act 10 doesn't just affect public sector workers, but workers in the private sector as well. Furthermore, it does not only affect the here and now, but also the long term, such as retirements.
TO: Marshfield Clinic Physicians and Staff
FROM: Brian Ewert, M.D.
RE: Clinic Finances
DATE: March 5, 2014
Since the beginning of the Clinic’s fiscal year October 1, 2013, we have experienced decreasing demand for Clinic services. This became more pronounced in January and February. We attribute this decrease to patients bearing more financial responsibility for their health care due to high-deductible health plans. This has resulted in $17 million less in income than anticipated. However, we have met our goals in controlling expenses.
The significant decrease in income requires us to make further changes in Clinic expenses to preserve the Clinic’s financial strength. Both short-term and longer-term solutions are needed.
The Clinic Board instituted these short-term solutions which will apply from April 1 – September 30, 2014:
· 5 percent Physician Class A Member salary withhold
· 5 percent Staff salary withhold for salaries greater than $125,000 per year
· No 2 percent Staff salary increase previously scheduled for April 1, 2014
· Discontinue Clinic 1 percent 401(K) match
These changes will result in about a $13 million improvement in Clinic finances.
Longer-term solutions were also discussed and the Clinic Board will make final decisions over the next six weeks.
Substantial changes are occurring in how people seek health care. The Clinic has successfully changed in the past based on patients’ needs. Our continued success will require a commitment to a high degree of alignment, collaboration and partnership throughout the Marshfield Clinic Health System.
Mahatma Gandhi had said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence." Then it has become quite evident that Act 10 and Walker's other economic policies is more than an attack on union workers or public sector workers, but an attack on every man, woman and child in the state.
The only question is how many attacks are we willing to tolerate before we fight back?