I want to report that this past Saturday March 5th a large group of physicians announced their opposition to the now infamous “Budget Repair Bill” in Wisconsin in grand fashion. Hundreds medical students and physicians met on State Street near the UW-Madison campus and marched up State Street to the Capitol Square at 11 am. Wearing our white coats, we sang and chanted cheers such as “Who Cares? We Care!” and “Do not, do not, do not re-sus-ci-tate this bill.” My sign said “Doctors for workers’ health and health care for all!” We were joined by others along the way including numerous nurses who have been participating in the protests throughout. Our goal was to show our opposition to the Governor’s efforts to cut Medicaid and BadgerCare, which provides health insurance for over one million Wisconsinites. For those of you following the debate closely, you also may know that this bill would provide the Governor/executive branch unprecedented power to make harmful changes to the program without legitimate legislative oversight, public hearings, or approval.
As we marched around Capitol Square twice, an entire parade of gathering protesters had cheered for us, taken pictures of us, and joined us in saying “Who cares? We care!” and “What’s disgusting? BadgerCare busting is disgusting!” People were clearly energized by the unexpected presence of white coats marching in the street in solidarity with people from around the state. We were invited on stage to a noon-time rally, and recently retired state legislator Dr. Chuck Benedict addressed a crowd of thousands and told the Governor that physicians would like him to “Tear up this bill!” Participants included local NPA members, PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) members and lots of energy from a large contingent of UW-Madison medical students and residents.
So far I have attended the protests four times over the past three weeks. Over the past three Saturdays, crowds have ranged from 50 to 75 thousand. It’s been important for me to participate at so many levels. Many of my patients are state workers and many of my family members are teachers. As a parent I want my child to grow up in a state that values education, the environment, and health as ways to foster business, not to the exclusion of business (Gov. Walker has used his “Open for business” motto ever since he was elected in fall to justify almost everything). But it also speaks to the reason NPA was founded, as an organization where physicians stand up for our patients and threats to the community’s health. It is with great pride that I joined fellow colleagues to make our voices heard, and we will continue to do so.