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Reality Check: Third-Party Ad Attacks Assembly Candidates On Health Care

Published On: Oct 22 2008 09:28:48 AM CDT   Updated On: Oct 22 2008 09:31:18 AM CDT

While the state's attention has been trained on the presidential race, local Assembly races are heating up and taking to the airwaves.

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A third-party ad is sparking controversy, and a WISC-TV "Reality Check" finds that the health care claims aren't all what they seem.

Health care is the focus of an ad by a special interest group trying to link two Assembly candidates to a health care plan proposed last year.

The group running the ad is the Coalition for America's Families, a Wisconsin branch of a Virginia-based conservative group.

Its director is Barbara Sellett, an advocate for educational reform. It was formerly chaired by the current national committeeman for the state Republican Party.

The group said it "promotes policies that reduce tax burdens on families." It doesn't list its members or donors publicly.

"Welcome to Wisconsin. Free health care for illegal aliens! Free for non-residents!" the ad says.

WISC-TV found this claim misleading.

The ad is referring to the Healthy Wisconsin Plan, passed by the Senate last year. The program aims to provide health care to everyone in the state at low cost, not free.

The plan would involve a deductible of $300 for individuals, $600 for families and a co-pay for most medical care. The state's working residents would also pay for it in an increased payroll tax.

It's true that illegal immigrants or non-residents could be eligible, if they have jobs in the state. The program said those who work in Wisconsin but don't live here would qualify for coverage, along with their families. But they'd pay for it in their Wisconsin payroll taxes.

The ad says: "This is kind of like that idea of giving Wisconsin welfare checks to people from Illinois. Only a lot better."

While this has nothing to do with the health care plan, it's another controversy the state faced over services nearly two decades ago.

Republicans claimed the state was a "welfare magnet," bringing Illinois residents here to take advantage of the state's program.

It was the impetus for the state's W-2 program, a revamped welfare system that required people to be working or in school to be eligible.

"Trish O'Neil and John Waelti's government-run health care plan means higher taxes," the ad says.

This claim is misleading, WISC-TV found.

Healthy Wisconsin was neither Trish O'Neil's nor John Waelti's health care plan. Neither held office when the plan was developed.

Second, the ad shows an increase in taxes of $510 per worker.

But actually, under Healthy Wisconsin the average worker would pay $140 a month in additional payroll taxes. Their employer would pay another $370 on their behalf.

Both of these Assembly candidates said they support a plan providing affordable and accessible health care. Neither of them during this campaign has professed support for Healthy Wisconsin in its present form.

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