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Expanding Medicaid Would Lead to a Healthier, Happier Wisconsin

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
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on Tuesday, 10 March 2020
in Wisconsin

medicaidAn overwhelming 70% of Wisconsinites support accepting the federal funds for Medicaid expansion. It’s time to move forward.

LA CROSSE, WI - With the 2020 presidential election just around the corner, the topic of health care is more hotly-contested than ever. While each candidate has their own opinions on how it should be reformed, there’s one theme that weaves through each debate: our system is broken, and we need to fix it.

While we can’t control what happens at the federal level, there is something we can do right here, at home, in Wisconsin – expand Medicaid.

For eight years, the Walker administration refused to accept federal Medicaid dollars that would extend coverage to tens of thousands of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Putting politics before the needs of our people, he chose to appeal to the far-right and reject the Affordable Care Act. And in the past year, legislative Republicans have kept up with Walker’s ideological agenda, and removed Medicaid Expansion from Governor Evers’ state budget proposal on the first day of deliberation.

Bottom line, these political games are just irresponsible, and they’re costing taxpayers money. In fact, in this budget cycle alone, accepting the Medicaid funding would’ve saved $324.5 million in state taxpayer money, and brought in over $1.6 billion in additional federal dollars for health care services.

jennifer-shillingWhat’s worse is Wisconsinites are already paying for the expansion, without reaping the benefits. According to the Department of Revenue, without expansion, Wisconsin taxpayers will pay more than $2 billion over the next two years in federal income taxes for other states like Illinois and New Jersey to expand their Medicaid programs.

Why wouldn’t we work to keep those dollars in Wisconsin?

With that money, we could increase affordable and accessible health insurance to 80,000 residents. We could increase provider reimbursement, tackle workforce shortages and provide coverage for additional services and benefits. We could even increase state funding for other priorities, like education and local government. And, perhaps most importantly, we could do the work the people of Wisconsin are asking us to do.

An overwhelming 70% of Wisconsinites support accepting the federal funds for Medicaid expansion – and it’s not too late. Republicans should do their jobs and act on stand-alone legislation introduced by Democrats that would allow us to join the 37 other states that have expanded their programs.

Every person in Wisconsin deserves access to affordable healthcare. Unfortunately, on this issue, Republicans are still stuck in the past. It’s time to move forward and build healthier, happier communities, together.

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Coronavirus Outbreak Demonstrates Need For Universal Health Care

Posted by Randall Schumann, Madison
Randall Schumann, Madison
Randall Schumann, Madison has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 06 March 2020
in Wisconsin

coronavirus-outbreak-asiaMadison man says the worldwide coronavirus outbreak should be a wake-up call to all Americans, regardless of their politics, that they are vulnerable to the disastrous health and financial devastation of the current "Trump/ GOP No Health Care" position.

MADISON - The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is a wake-up call to all Americans about the need for Universal Health Care. Whether or not you currently have health insurance, you are 1 emergency room visit and/or 1 hospital visit away from financial ruin thanks to America's current, broken, health care system. Medical/healthcare costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. with 530,000 bankruptcies annually linked to medical costs.

While most Americans do have some level of health insurance, there currently are 27.5 million Americans that do not have health insurance (even though Obamacare since its enactment in 2010 has enabled some 20 million Americans to obtain health insurance). Over the past 2 weeks the worldwide coronavirus outbreak has resulted in several countries taking extreme precautions to slow or prevent outbreaks. And now in the U.S., with deaths as well as confirmed cases beginning to be identified in several states, the American public is becoming extremely worried about being able to afford unexpected medical bills, insurance deductibles and co-pays, as well as prescription drug costs that would occur if they or one or more family members contracted the virus.

critical-illnessAnd all Americans - whether they have health insurance or not - should be worried because of the costs involved if they need emergency medical care. If a person is coughing, wheezing, or having difficulty breathing, a trip to the emergency room to find out if it is the coronavirus can result in $3000 to $5,000 or more in charges (even if the hospital had any of the scarce test kits). And if the person would need a ventilator to enable breathing and thus would have to be hospitalized, the medical costs would go up exponentially.

And for the 27.5 million Americans without health insurance, the cost of that emergency room visit and possible hospitalization would probably bankrupt them - even if it was just one person. And if the situation involved additional family members as well, the result would be even more financially devastating. Furthermore, even for a person / family that has health insurance, just the financial burden of most insurance policy's $2000 to $4000 deductible, plus the 20% insurance copay for treatment of each family member affected, could wipe out much or all of a family's emergency fund and/or savings.

So if, heaven forbid, there is a disastrous spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. like there currently is in China, potentially resulting in many hundreds of thousands (or even millions ) of Americans going to emergency rooms and having to be tested and/or hospitalized, there will be a horrific number of families facing bankruptcy in the near future.

Consequently, the worldwide coronavirus outbreak is a wake-up call to all Americans about the need for universal health care. Thus, every American, whatever their party affiliation, needs to vote out of office President Trump and every Republican member of Congress and state legislator that has enabled the current, broken situation to exist. A situation where a majority of Americans are vulnerable to the disastrous health and financial devastation of the current "Trump/ GOP No Health Care" position that, in reality, will prove to be a physical and/or financial death sentence for many Americans.

Randall Schumann
Madison, WI

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Sen. Smith: I’m Here, Ready to Listen

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 04 March 2020
in Wisconsin

meeting-crowdOver the next couple of weeks, Sen. Jeff Smith will be hosting a series of listening sessions to hear from the people of the 31st. and hopes you can join them.

EAU CLAIRE, WI - I’ve always said that one of the best parts of my job is listening to others, whether it’s their stories, suggestions or questions. During this time of year, I regularly hear many of the same questions.

What happened? Where did the time go? Why didn’t things get done? What can we expect?

These are all important questions, questions Wisconsinites deserve to ask, especially as the legislative session comes to a close. I hope to have the opportunity to answer these and your other pressing questions during my end-of-session listening sessions.

As always, the best part of listening is learning. I learn a lot from folks who come to the listening sessions, and I hope I’m able to share insightful information for others to learn from as well.

Last week, I held the first end-of-session town hall listening session in Whitehall at Sweet Temptations Cafe. More than a dozen constituents sat with me to ask questions and start a discussion. The topics of conversation ranged from the broken school funding formula, broadband expansion, gerrymandering and the urgency of repairing our crumbling rural roads to Managed Forest Land.

Our conversation on these interesting and important issues could have gone on for hours. Although the topics are relatively different, the answers I come back to are typically the same. When we talk about being unable to expand Medicaid or properly fund our public schools, the conclusion rests on the decisions made by the Majority Party or the consequences of gerrymandered maps.

For example, when Governor Evers presented a plan to provide property tax relief for Wisconsinites while recommitting the state to two-thirds funding of our public schools, Republicans declined to even have a discussion, instead opting for a one-time property tax rebate.

After listening to the hardworking educators in the area, I knew the importance of Governor Evers’ plan. I support Governor Evers’ plan because it’s the plan my constituents have advocated for to support our rural communities in more ways than one. I’m continuing to listen and learn from residents across the state on the best ways to lead and collaborate with my legislative colleagues.

jeff-smithI want to make myself available to learn more from you. In the following weeks, I’m holding these upcoming end-of-session listening sessions:

· March 5 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Chippewa Valley Technical College Room 101 in the Business Education Center, Eau Claire with Representative Jodi Emerson

· March 10 (5:00 PM – 6:30 PM) – Revolution Coffee, Black River Falls

· March 12 (4:30 PM – 6:00 PM) – The Twisted Oak Coffee House, Prescott

· March 26 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Roger Marten Community Center, Mondovi

· April 2 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Cochrane-Fountain City High School, Fountain City

With the last session day happening the last week of March, this is a chance for you to share your thoughts on what the legislature still needs to accomplish and your ideas about what we could be doing better for the next session in 2021.

But don’t think this is the end of my work for 2020. Along with holding scheduled listening sessions like these, I’ll be getting back out on the road for my mobile office hours with my truck and Stop N’ Talk sign.

The conversations and action we take in 2020 will, undoubtedly, have an impact on how we work in 2021. We don’t get any more free passes to complain if we don’t demonstrate our duty to stand up, participate and fight for the best interests of Wisconsinites. Be sure to show up to listening sessions and share your thoughts. Make your voice heard loud and clear.

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How Partisan Gerrymandering Limits Access to Care

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
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on Saturday, 29 February 2020
in Wisconsin

healthcare-family-drThe GOP majority in Madison, which actually represents a minority of Wisconsinites, is costing us money and lives by adhering to Walker era policy of resistance to Affordable Care, says Senator.

West Point - On February 24, 2020, the Center for American Progress released a report on how gerrymandering has prevented more than 2 million uninsured people from getting covered through the Medicaid expansion. The report analyzes states like Wisconsin that have refused to expand health insurance coverage to low income residents despite a majority of people supporting the idea. Extreme partisan gerrymandering insulates Republican politicians in legislatures like Wisconsin’s from being held accountable for blocking access to coverage for over a hundred thousand people and sending billions of tax dollars to other states.

According to the report, “74% of Americans have a favorable view of Medicaid – including 82% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans.” Here in Wisconsin, that is echoed. According to the Marquette Law Poll, 70% approve of the expansion of Medicaid. Despite its popularity, there are still states where Republican controlled legislatures, who remain in control due to gerrymandered districts, continue to refuse the expansion or are attempting to undermine the coverage with needless barriers.

jon-erpenbach“I’m not sure what it will take to get Wisconsin Republicans to see the error of their ways. All of the reports and studies show the same story,” said Senator Erpenbach. “Wisconsin is among the minority of states that continues to send over a billion federal taxpayer dollars to neighboring states it order to prove a point.”

In the 2018 general election, Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic candidates received 54.2% of the vote, and State Senate Democrats received 49% of the vote, however, Republicans still won a substantial majority in both chambers. Unfortunately, gerrymandering leads to candidates being more extreme and less likely to listen to their constituents once they’re in office, which is the case in Wisconsin. Despite the majority of Wisconsinites wanting expanded health care coverage, the report found that by refusing the expansion Wisconsin has forgone insuring 108,000 people which has resulted in 300 preventable deaths in 2019 alone.

“The Medicaid expansion would make health care more affordable for everyone,” said Senator Erpenbach. “It would reduce the costs of premiums on the individual market, save taxpayers millions of dollars, help keep rural hospitals open, and frankly, save lives. Extreme gerrymandering has held Wisconsin back and has resulted in Wisconsin falling behind neighboring states. It is vital that elected officials work for their constituents and in order for that to happen, voters need to be able to choose their leaders, not the other way around.”


View the Report here.

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Policymaking by the People, for the People

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 26 February 2020
in Wisconsin

lines-farmsRecently-introduced legislation, which would change Wisconsin’s current livestock siting standards, serves as an important reminder why legislators must listen to constituents and stakeholders when developing new policy says Sen. Smith.

MADISON - Before a bill becomes a law, a process exists to ensure policymakers develop the most effective policy proposal, and with good reason. Decisions made on the state level influence the way folks work and live in all corners of the state. Legislation should be a product of the conversations policymakers have with the stakeholders who will be impacted.

But that’s not what happened when Republicans introduced Senate Bill (SB) 808, a bill which would rewrite livestock siting and expansion standards in Wisconsin. When making significant policy changes, the safety and health of individuals involved must be our first priority. Rather than create hastily-made policy, we need to think critically and develop well-informed policy that will assure Wisconsin’s a better place for all.

In 2003, the State Legislature passed the Livestock Siting Law, which gave the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) the ability to create standards for local governments regarding the location and expansion of livestock operations which have more than 500 animal units, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

Before legislation was passed, town boards and their constituents wanted an opportunity to voice their thoughts on growing livestock facilities. These standards were created to ensure neighboring properties were protected from the negative consequences of expanding facilities. For example, a farm wanting to expand from 400 to 4,000 cows would have more manure, which will spread and eventually affect the groundwater.

Livestock siting isn’t a simple process or law. After all, livestock siting affects Wisconsin’s agricultural practices, our environment and public health. When legislators introduced a new bill regarding livestock siting rules, there were many concerns over the changes it would make. Considering the proposed changes SB 808 would have on current livestock siting laws, many of us were shocked with how fast it moved through the legislative process.

Typically, the legislative process for a bill to become a law takes months from the time a legislator drafts the bill, talks through the proposal with subject experts and stakeholders, introduces the bill to the Legislature, has a public hearing and committee vote, passes both houses and is signed by the Governor. The length of this process is imperative for experts and constituents to provide input.

In just under 9 days, Republicans introduced the bill and scheduled the bill for a vote in the Senate and Assembly. The way in which this bill sprinted through the legislative process with very little scrutiny took my breath away. The bill authors skipped consultation with subject experts or professionals at DATCP and the Department of Natural Resources when moving this bill forward. Why wouldn’t you work alongside the two agencies responsible for administering this law?

Although The Livestock Siting Law certainly could use updating, SB 808 went too far. If passed, SB 808 would move siting approval from local governments to DATCP, essentially stripping away local control while eliminating public input on the CAFO permitting process, which threatens our clean drinking water.

SB 808 would also create the Livestock Facility Technical Review Board, a new DATCP board, operating separately from the already established Livestock Facility Siting Review Board. Questions are still unanswered as to the new board’s role and purview, the rulemaking process or the public’s role on the board.

jeff-smithFortunately, SB 808 was pulled at the last minute. I credit the advocacy of citizens who contacted their legislators and demanded an end to this bill.

As a state senator, I believe we need to offer resources to make it easier for town officials to do their job – I’ve heard this from my constituents too. I believe there are improvements to the current livestock siting process that can be made, only with the input of local government leaders and community members.

More importantly, I understand with any change to current law, we must consult constituents and the professionals in the community who truly understand the impact of the proposed policy. Now think about what you can share with your elected official. Be sure to speak out and share your thoughts – we need to hear from you.

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