Oct. 24–POYNETTE — For most of their lives,Tom and JoAnn Schulzconsidered themselves comfortably middle class. But now, Tom says, “We’re the new poor.”
His wife, JoAnn, made about$80,000a year as a nurse until being diagnosed inJuly 2010with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer. She stopped working. He stayed home from his job at a hardware store to take care of her. Their bills kept rising.
Tom’s monthly health insurance premiums, for example, have more than doubled this year. In the spring, they paid$130each month. Now, they pay$325. They worry costs will continue to climb — or the state-funded medical plan he’s on, BadgerCare Basic, will collapse or be cut altogether.
Fears about impending changes to state health care programs are rising for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites. More than 200,000 could be affected by premium increases, eligibility limits and other changes proposed as part of spending cuts aimed at addressing a half-billion dollar shortfall in stateMedicaidprograms. AndWisconsinofficials warn that, if those changes are not made, some 53,000 people may be cut from state insurance plans completely.
For now, to make ends meet, the Schulzes have been selling their belongings oneBay. An electronic keyboard. Books and CDs. JoAnn points to a pair of her grandmother’s antique lamps, and says she has some family heirlooms she plans to sell.
They’ve also been trying to sell their home for months, and borrowed money from their families to avoid foreclosure.
They fear they are headed toward bankruptcy. JoAnn, who is 53 and now disabled, says her cancer is in remission but is almost certain to return.
“I feel like for the rest of our lives, we’re going to be poor,” JoAnn said.
“We certainly have a very uncertain future,” Tom added.
Access and affordability
Wisconsinofficials say people will not be cut from state health insurance plans unless they have access to other options under their proposal to balance the program’s budget by cutting$554.4 millionin spending. But about 215,000 children and adults