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Sen. Hansen, Rep. Anderson Unveil Plan to Go After Predatory Drug Pricing

Posted by Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 07 March 2018
in Wisconsin

drug-costDrug companies are increasing prices on generics by as much as 500%, and it's time to shine a light on this dark corner of the prescription market says Green Bay senator. Bill would give AG power to investigate.


MADISON - Joined at a press conference today by Dr. Robert Kraig of Citizen Action and people directly impacted by the predatory practices of some generic drug makers, Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) unveiled a plan he is introducing with State Representative Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) aimed at tackling the growing problem of predatory pricing by makers generic and off-patent drugs.

caw“We are seeing example after example of drug companies increasing prices on much-needed generic drugs by as much as 500%, 4,014% and even 8,281%,” said Hansen. “This can’t be allowed to go on.”

Recent examples of drugs that saw exorbitant price increases include Pravastatin, used to treat heart conditions which jumped 573%. Albuterol, used to control asthma, increased 4,014%.

And Doxycycline which is used for bacterial infections skyrocketed 8,281%.

dave-hansen“While companies that engage in this type of predatory practice make greater profits, those profits come at the expense of many of the people who need those drugs the most, as they are priced out of their ability to obtain them,” said Hansen. “It’s time to shine a light on what is becoming a very dark corner of the generic drug market.”

Many if not most makers and distributors of generic and off-patent drugs do their best to keep them affordable for the people who need them. Some less scrupulous companies, however, look to corner the market on a specific off-patent or generic drug and raise prices simply because they can. And the reason they can is because the drugs are critically important to the health and wellbeing of so many people.

The bill provides the Attorney General with the tools necessary to go after less scrupulous drug makers and distributors who see markets for certain drugs as a path to quick and big profits at the expense of the lives and health of people who need them.

Under the bill the Attorney General would have the power to compel drug companies to provide information justifying the price increase and petition the court to provide remedies ranging from enjoining the drug’s maker form engaging in price gouging, requiring them to return excessive profits to consumers as well as require t drug makers to pay civil forfeitures of up to $10,000 for each instance of price gouging.

“People who can least afford it are getting squeezed by corporations and CEOs bent on generating bigger and bigger profits without any regard for the potential harm their greed is costing patients both in terms of dollars and their personal health. This should not be an acceptable business practice here in Wisconsin,” concludes the Senator.

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One Step Moves Us Forward to More Affordable Healthcare

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 06 March 2018
in Wisconsin

affordablecareA new law creates Risk Corridors* for Health Care insurance providers in Wisconsin, a technical mechanism to help level the risk for insurers. Minnesota enacted a similar law to achieve a premium reduction, and also created their own health care network and accepted Medicaid expansion dollars, ideas that could benefit Wisconsin.


MADISON - “Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you Tuesday.” I said as I left the office in Madison.

By the next day, the creek at the base of my farm’s steep driveway had risen over the road. The rushing water cut a channel through the gravel town road, making the road impassable.

My forward-thinking husband kept an eye on the water’s progress and moved vehicles over to the other side before the rushing water completely cut through the road.

This morning twelve bluebirds and a robin hung out by the bird feeders. Spring comes one step at a time: snow melt, more snow, more melting and mud. The old farmers say snow must fall three times on a robin’s tail. Another big snowfall this week is snowfall number one on the robin’s tail.

Back in Madison, at the State Capitol, there is not much evidence of a thaw between the Senate and Assembly or between the majority and the minority parties. However, the Senate did pass a bipartisan bill to help lower health insurance premiums.

“What do you think of Risk Corridors?” an older Barron County farmer recently asked me at a public meeting in Eau Claire. Quite surprised, I asked him “How did you know about “risk corridors?”

“I’m paying attention!” he smiled. “And, I pay too much for health care. I think this plan will help lower my premiums.”

I agreed, “It’s a good idea and I voted for the bill.” The rest of our group looked very puzzled.

Risk corridors is a wonky phase describing an idea to lower premiums under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). I explained the plan like this: Remember when we had Blue Cross Blue Shield as not for profit health insurance. Plans were community rated – meaning everyone paid the same price regardless of age and health. This was an “up-front” leveling or sharing of risk for insurance companies.

Risk corridors are similar in purpose, but a more behind the scenes leveling. Think of risk corridors like a profit and loss sharing mechanism to help insurers balance risk.

The Barron County farmer joins about 200,000 people in Wisconsin who buy insurance on their own through the healthcare.gov marketplace.

Wisconsin saw premiums in the marketplace increase on average 36% from 2017 to 2018. Many families were dropped by their health plans and had to find other insurance. Still others dropped coverage because of price increases.

Minnesota took up the idea of risk corridors and lowered 2018 insurance premiums under Obamacare by 20%, compared to where premiums would have been without risk corridors. This savings was possible in part because Minnesota has its own marketplace – MNsure – and expanded Medicaid (MinnesotaCare). These are two ideas I strongly support and would help Wisconsin get to Minnesota’s 20% premium drop.

Senate Bill 770, the bill to create risk corridors, recently passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor. The bill passed in an interesting bipartisan vote. Some Republicans voted “no” because they thought the bill went too far; some Democrats voted against it because they didn’t think the bill went far enough.

Leaving the event in Eau Claire I reflected on the two persistent questions I heard at the forum: how are you going to fix health care and how are Democrats and Republicans going to work together?

With SB 770, we took a small step forward. Just a small step on the long road toward healthcare for all - but in today’s political climate perhaps only small steps are possible.

Politics often seems to be the art of the possible. I strongly believe whatever steps forward we CAN take, we SHOULD take.

Spring does not arrive all at once. We welcome the first robin, and see the robin as the first sign of the coming of spring. So it is with health care; I welcome any step forward as a sign that we can make our way down the road.

We never get to the end of the road until we travel it.

****

* Risk Corridors can be described as a healthcare exchange re-insurance pool where participating insurers who MADE MONEY in a given year would kick a percentage of their profits into the pool, administered by the Federal Government, from which any insurers who LOST MONEY during that same year could recoup their losses.

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A Wheelchair is Not a Trampoline: Questioning Assumptions about Support

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 February 2018
in Wisconsin

family-worried-billsThe recently passed Special Session bills make it more difficult for people living in poverty to achieve their dream of family supporting jobs and getting off government assistance.


MADISON - “Public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock,” read the title of Governor Walker’s press release touting work on a package of bills introduced in a Legislative Special Session. The bills made changes to certain programs targeted at helping those living in poverty.

During the recent Senate debate, proponents of the bills declared the best road out of poverty was a job. No one in the Senate disagreed. However, what these bills really do is KEEP people in poverty and make a few companies richer while providing little accountability.

The assumption of the hammock metaphor is that people are lazy and just need a kick to get moving. Another assumption is that fraud is rampant. Both assumptions are false. FoodShare is heavily scrutinized to ensure compliance. Wisconsin has an error rate around one percent.

Most people who use FoodShare or BadgerCare do so short term. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 60% of non-elderly folks who use Medicaid are already working. Another third are in school, ill or caring for someone in need.

According to David Lee of Hunger Task Force in Wisconsin, about two-thirds of those who get FoodShare are seniors, disabled, and children – people who cannot work. Of the remaining third, half are already working. Many others are caregivers – for either the elderly, disabled or children.

Part of the Special Session plan is to make it harder to get FoodShare and BadgerCare. Families may have to sell their home if it’s more than 200% of average state value. Farmers may have to sell livestock, equipment and farm buildings. Disabled folks might lose their accessible van if it’s worth over $10,000.

These rules fly in the face of common sense. If we want a farmer to do better, or a wheelchair bound person to succeed why would we make them sell items essential to their livelihood?

The cornerstone of the Governor’s plan is a program called FoodShare Employment and Training – FSET for short. The program relies on several contractors around the state who screen people and get them into work.

Lawmakers heard stories of FSET companies creating incentives for job counselors to get people into low wage jobs as soon as possible. For example, we heard about a young woman who wanted to get her GED to improve her ability to get work. Instead, the FSET job counselor sent her to a minimum wage fast food job.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) reported that FSET participants, who gained employment in December of 2016, made an average of $12.19 an hour and worked an average of 34 hours a week. The LFB reported that participants with those wages and hours worked would still be eligible for FoodShare.

Further, the LFB reported on a string of problems with FSET. Costs per person per month were more than double the original budget estimate. Federal inspections turned up problems in Milwaukee, including civil rights violations, the lack of individualized services, and restricted education and training opportunities. Corrective actions and recommendations were slow or not completed. Despite three years of problems, the state made only one onsite visit.

Despite such poor performance and lack of evaluation, state officials awarded bonuses. The Department of Health Services gave “pay for performance” bonus money to all but one of the 11 FSET companies for “accuracy” and “timely completion of quarterly reports” – requirements FSET companies should meet at a minimum.

Unbelievably, Special Session Assembly Bill 6 more than quadrupled these “pay for performance” bonuses to the FSET companies.

Every group that works with those struggling to gain economic stability opposed these Special Session bills. Their thoughtful and compelling testimony clearly demonstrated that people want to move out of poverty and off government assistance. All they need are the tools to help them achieve their dream.

A wheelchair is not a hammock, but essential equipment. A warm house, food, health care and education are not a hammock but rather the essential tools to help people get that job that moves them out of poverty.

The measure of a civilized society is how we treat those in need. The Governor’s plan cuts the springs holding up the trampoline just as a person jumps.

For many, life is very difficult. When we reach out helping hands to those in need, we do our part to make not only their lives better, but ours as well.

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Senators Have Double-Standard When It Comes to Fraud

Posted by Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 22 February 2018
in Wisconsin

walker-open-for-businessSenate Republicans in Madison go after the little guy while CEOs and wealthy business owners walk free says Hansen. Introduces amendment to hold all to same standard.


MADISON - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said Tuesday that when it comes to punishing those who commit fraud against Wisconsin taxpayers Senate Republicans are only interested in going after the little guy.

dave-hansen-gb“Fraud is fraud. It doesn’t matter if the person committing it is rich or poor. Both should be held accountable for their actions. Senate Republicans had a chance tonight to hold CEOs and wealthy business owners who commit fraud applying for taxpayer economic assistance to the same standard as people who commit unemployment fraud but they chose not to,” said Hansen.

Hansen introduced an amendment that would subject business owners and CEOs to the same standard as a person who commits fraud in applying for unemployment benefits but Senate Republicans rejected the amendment on a party-line vote.

“The system is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful in this state. Whether it’s the Trump/Ryan tax bill that gives more of our money to wealthy corporations, Walker’s $4 billion dollar plus giveaway to Chinese-based Foxconn or what we saw here tonight when they voted against punishing rich CEOs and owners who commit corporate welfare fraud, the system is rigged against average folks.”

“Thanks to Governor Walker and Senate Republicans there are two sets of rules: one for the rich and one for everybody else.”

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Republicans Pass Wetlands Destruction Bill

Posted by Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd
Wisconsin Senate Democrats, Jay Wadd has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 21 February 2018
in Wisconsin

wetlands-wiThe assault on our quality of life continues with passage of a bill that will lead to more flooding and damage to homes and businesses.


MADISON - On a day that saw flood warnings for parts of Wisconsin, Senate Republicans passed a bill that will lead to more and more flooding and damage to homes and businesses resulting from the destruction of even more wetlands said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).

“As we have seen with Hurricane Harvey in Houston, flooding due to the loss of wetlands can be catastrophic. Rather than learn from this tragic lesson, Senate Republicans have chosen to ignore it in the interest of serving their corporate donors,” said Hansen.

hurricane-harveyMuch of the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Harvey was linked to the loss of crucial wetlands in the Houston area. Wetlands play a vital role in controlling flooding. When wetlands are developed, especially in cities and large population areas flooding increases. In addition to loss of life, increased flooding can result in millions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses and schools.

dave-hansen“What the Republicans did here today is extremely short-sighted," said Hansen. "It will destroy critical habitat for wildlife, increase the potential for catastrophic flooding and cost residents of affected areas more in increased insurance costs and premiums.”

Earlier in the day Senate Republicans voted to eliminate a program that monitors air pollution along the Lake Michigan coastline.

“Whether it’s voting to allow industrial acid mining in north and central Wisconsin, refusing to address the threat posed by the Aquila Mine Back Forty Project just across our border, peeling back our laws that protect our clean air and drinking water, or voting yet again to allow the destruction of our wetlands, the common thread in their actions is clear: There is nothing they won’t do to appease their wealthy donors, even if it means destroying the legacy of one of the nation’s strongest conservation movements in our nation’s history and the quality of life that goes along with it.”

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