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1998 State of the State Address

January 20, 1998
Tommy G. Thompson, Governor

The following is an excerpt from Governor Tommy G. Thompson's 1998 State of the State Address:

... Yet, as our population ages, a growing concern for many families is how they will be able to afford the care of their parents while they provide for the education and growth of their own children.

Perhaps our greatest health care challenge right now is long-term care, as scientific advances help people live longer and our baby boomers move into retirement.

Between 1960 and 1990, the number of people age 85 and older grew 10 times faster each year than the population as a whole. And by the year 2010, we expect this segment of seniors to grow another 60 percent.

As you can see, our state’s elderly and disabled population is growing faster than our available resources.

I know the people of Wisconsin are concerned about how they will care for their parents in old age. We want to give our parents the same loving care they gave us as children, but how do we afford it? And where do we get it?

The current long-term system is intimidating, complex and sterile. There are 40 ways to access the system, people don’t know how to get the appropriate care because it’s so complicated, and the concerns of families are often ignored.

The greatest hope of our families is for a compassionate system of high quality choices so they can give their parents the very best care possible.

Tonight, we unveil a revolutionary new program to meet the needs of our aging and ease the worries of their children. We call it Family Care – an idea whose ambition and scope is even greater than W-2.

Family Care will touch the lives of more than 1 million Wisconsin citizens – 10 times as many families who were on welfare when we began reforming that system.

It will combine our long-term care programs into one system to provide the maximum range of care options for seniors and disabled. It is built upon consumer choice and one-stop shopping for services.

Family Care will develop for every person a plan of supportive care tailored to meet his or her specific needs and desires. Families will turn to one place for professional help in determining the best services for their loved ones and choosing the best service providers. This comprehensive service will be provided with full input from the family.

Financial support will follow people to the best place for them, whether it’s in their own home, an assisted living apartment or a nursing home. By making the system more efficient, we make it more affordable as well. Family Care will not strain the family budget.

To help keep living at home a viable and affordable option, we seek tonight to expand the Community Options Program by another $10 million. We have already quadrupled the number of COP slots under my administration and we’re doing even more.

Family Care gives families security, peace of mind and hope for the future. It will set the standard for the nation, providing people like Dorothy Spaulding with the high quality care we expect in Wisconsin.

Dorothy has been in a wheelchair for 20 years and joined the COP program after her husband passed away nine years ago.

COP helped Dorothy remain active in her community, participating in church activities and pursuing her art interests. And holidays are still celebrated at grandma’s house, something that wouldn’t have been possible without the COP program.

Dorothy Spaulding is joined tonight by two daughters, her granddaughter and two great-granddaughters. Four generations of women who symbolize why we must build today the long-term care system of tomorrow. Thank you Dorothy and best wishes.

Our health care plans must meet the needs of the disabled as well. You have heard me say often that every person in this state is capable of contributing something to society.

Yet only 1 percent of our disabled leave public assistance for the workforce even though most are very much able to contribute.

The reason: Fear of losing their health and long-term care benefits.

Tonight, we remove this barrier to work by proposing a demonstration project in five communities that guarantees Medicaid and Medicare coverage to the disabled regardless of their earnings in the private sector.

And we expand our innovative Wheelchair Recycling program, which repairs used or broken wheelchairs and distributes them to those in need.

We are wasting too much talent by allowing legitimate fears over health care to keep the disabled out of the workforce. Give the disabled their freedom by protecting their health.

Last Revised:  July 12, 2010