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Walker Shift on Health Care Not Enough

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 24 January 2018
in Wisconsin

walker-healthplan-2015Will not undo damage from years of sabotage says non-partisan healthcare group. Opening BadgerCare as a public option, and other reforms, are needed to make coverage affordable.


STATEWIDE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its preliminary response on Monday to the health care proposals Governor Scott Walker will unveil Wednesday in his State of the State Address.

Walker’s sudden interest in addressing the health insurance affordability crisis will not undo the damage his 7 years of sabotage has done, let alone make coverage affordable for most Wisconsinites. In addition, Walker’s proposal on pre-existing condition exclusions would still leave many vulnerable to life-threatening insurance discrimination.

healthcare-rates-gbWhile Walker’s admission that state government has a role to play in making health care affordable is a small step forward, his proposed policies pale in comparison to the scale of the problem and do not make up for the damage done by his ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to research released by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, premiums and deductibles have increased by a combined 209% in Wisconsin since 2000, and far more in some regions.

The centerpiece of Walker’s proposal, which will be unveiled in his State of the State Address on Wednesday, is a reinsurance plan which pays public money to health insurance companies for high-cost patients. Walker’s plan to give more public subsidies to insurance companies impacts very few Wisconsinites who are struggling to afford health coverage, and would result in only a moderate impact on affordability.

Reinsurance will not reduce the premiums of 83% of the Wisconsinites who buy health coverage through the ACA marketplace and receive tax subsidies. It will not effect deductibles or copays and will not help small businesses. Although it will modestly help the 17% of enrollees who make too much money to be eligible to federal tax credits, it will according to national research lower premiums only by an average of 4%. According to Citizen Action Wisconsin research, premiums increased by over 50% statewide from 2017-2018 and by even more in some areas of the state.

There are a number of far more effective policy changes that would make health coverage much more affordable if we deployed the full power of state government.

  1. Opening BadgerCare to everyone in Wisconsin as a public option would, at no cost to the state, reduce premiums and deductibles by an average of 24%. It would also help people who buy insurance on their own and small businesses, most of whom cannot afford to provide coverage to their employees.

  2. Reversing Walker’s decision to turn down the Medicaid expansion money in the ACA could reduce premiums by about 7%.

  3. Reversing the Walker Administration's decision to allow the sale of substandard plans in Wisconsin could reduce premiums by as much as 10%.

Walker’s new interest in protecting people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurance companies is grossly inadequate. His proposal would allow insurance companies to trample upon the rights of anyone who’s had a gap in coverage, and does next to nothing to prevent people with serious health conditions from being priced out of coverage.

Walker’s sudden reversal does not go nearly far enough to the reverse the damage he has done through his ceaseless efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has continuously documented, the Walker Administration has sought to sabotage the ACA by encouraging healthy people to buy substandard policies outside of the market, refusing to enact robust rate review. turning down Medicaid expansion, hamstringing health care navigators, rubber stamping health insurance industry mega mergers, and seeking waivers that would allow insurance companies to take larger profits. Taken together the Walker Administration has aided and abetted the ongoing effort of the national for-profit insurance companies to continue to insure healthy people and find ways to avoid covering people with pre-existing health conditions.

“It is amazing that the best Walker can come up with to address skyrocketing health care costs is more public subsidies for insurance companies. Walker’s refusal to use the power of state government to guarantee affordable health care makes it impossible for him to meaningfully address the affordability crisis,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Insurance and pharmaceutical corporations are not in the business of securing affordable health care; they are driven by profit imperatives dictated by Wall Street. That’s why insurance companies will deny coverage to sick people and pharmaceutical corporations will price gouge if we let them. It is a simple truth that only “we the people,” through the agency of our own democratic government, can guarantee health care to everyone in Wisconsin.”

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FoodShare Bill "Kicking Us When We Are Down"

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, 23 January 2018
in Wisconsin

grocery-store-checkoutA new bill pending in the Senate would require FoodShare participants to show a photo ID at the store. History has shown such a requirement is very costly and has little impact on fraud, a problem Wisconsin took far more effective steps in the past to reduce.


MADISON - The little girl walked home through the snow. She took the longer route. Mom asked her to stop at the store to buy milk. She touched the coupons and note. She couldn’t lose them. Mom was so sick with cancer.

Some little girl might be asked next year to show a photo ID to get milk. The Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations committee recently had a hearing on a bill to require those using FoodShare to show a photo ID. Advocates argued this would treat people in need of help in an undignified way, add unneeded bureaucracy and increase government expenses without reducing fraud.

FoodShare is Wisconsin’s version of the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. SNAP has the strongest program integrity, or fraud prevention, standards of any federal program. For example, the old Food Stamp program used paper coupons. Under President Clinton, states moved to a plastic card that operates like a debit card, dramatically cutting down on fraud.

On average, eligible families receive $1.39 per person per meal, according to recent testimony from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. People often are on the program for a short time. A Department of Agriculture study found a little more than half of new participants stay on SNAP for less than a year.

In Wisconsin, a quarter of recipients are elderly, blind or have a disability. Forty-three percent are children. Forty percent have jobs. During the hearing, we learned the state worked hard to reduce fraud and now has an accuracy rate (benefits properly going to those eligible) of ninety-nine percent.

Efforts made to fix problems in FoodShare included reducing the many errors made by those working in the system. Wisconsin had a history of being a state with one of the highest error rates in the nation. Changes made under Governor Doyle resulted in bonus payments for improvements. However, problems remained.

Audits conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) found problems with the Department of Health (DHS) oversight of the FoodShare program. Prisoners were still receiving benefits, reports showing fraud were not being read or acted upon, and fraud investigators were woefully understaffed. State work was sent to private companies in violation of federal law.

DHS responded with many changes. Workers can now verify social security numbers in real time. This process helped eliminate prison inmates who continued to receive benefits.

Selling or buying a card is illegal. DHS maintains a Trafficking Enforcement and Audit Unit that reviews the details of requests for replacement of lost cards. This unit identifies vendor (grocery store) fraud. It works with local agencies to share fraud-related data and conducts fraud and misuse audits. In addition, an Investigation and Technical Assistance Unit follows up on calls to the fraud hotline among many other aspects of fraud investigation.

This work paid off. Last spring, DHS announced two people were facing criminal charges for FoodShare fraud. One man requested 13 cards in 12 months. The data obtained by our system showed purchases made by multiple people using the man’s personal ID number.

The Department reported in 2016 that almost 1400 people were suspended from the program compared to 203 in 2012. Of those, 113 resulted in criminal prosecution. The new system was put in place in 2013.

Photo IDs for SNAP is not a new idea. In fact, many states tried to require photo IDs and stopped. Missouri stopped using photo IDs in 2001 because they did not show significant cost savings. Massachusetts abandon the program under Governor Romney. One problem is that federal rules require that SNAP beneficiaries not be treated differently at a grocery story. This means stores would be required to ask EVERYONE for an ID.

The program is expensive. To start the program would cost over $7 ½ million and another $1.6 million as ongoing costs.

Getting assistance to those who need it and getting rid of fraud are goals we all share. But let’s be smart about the rules. Unnecessary or politically motivated rules result in wasted dollars and fewer folks signing up who truly need help.

Long-term studies show the supplemental nutrition program resulted in marked reduction in serious nutrition problems among children. My family and I are part of the success story. The little girl in the story was me.

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Governor Walker’s Re-election Health Care Plan

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
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 23 January 2018
in Wisconsin

walker-rejects-fedmoneyGov. Walker has finally decided to join most Americans and support the Affordable Care Act, so now it’s time to bring our Federal taxpayer dollars back.


MADISON - Even though last year he fought for repeal, in his re-election campaign now Governor Walker has finally decided to join most Americans and support the Affordable Care Act. Democrats in Wisconsin have always worked to strengthen our health care system and now Governor Walker finally joins us in that fight. Now it’s time for Governor Walker to bring our Federal taxpayer dollars back to Wisconsin and expand BadgerCare – our state has now lost over $1 billion because of Governor Walker’s refusal to expand BadgerCare.

These newly loved Democratic plans are a drop in the bucket compared to what accepting funds to expand BagerCare could do for the people of this state. Finally, without a CHIP extension, Wisconsin will have a huge hole in our Medicaid budget so maybe this plan should include a Governor Walker guarantee Congress will extend CHIP for the children of this state.

On Reinsurance funds: Reinsurance is a tool that has been used by other states including Minnesota who funded $500 million. Governor Walker’s plan is less than half of what Minnesota invested which begs the question, is it really enough to lower the premium for participants?

On $50 million in Medicaid savings – The Medicaid report just came out and counts on Congress renewing CHIP. I wish Governor Walker could waive his magic wand to make Congress renew CHIP for the children of Wisconsin, where is that promise? Without it we will have a huge hole in our Medicaid budget.

On SeniorCare Medicare Part D exemption permanent – That’s up to the Federal government – the current SeniorCare extension was just filed (down to the wire). Seniors have basically had to beg Governor Walker to renew it for the past ten years. Again – glad he is finally willing to commit to always renewing the SeniorCare waiver – something he has NEVER been willing to do before.

On the preexisting conditions bill – I am curious why Governor Walker did not like this proposal when it was an Erpenbach/Riemer proposal. Clearly coverage for preexisting conditions is – and has always been – a huge concern for the people of Wisconsin. Governor Walker did not speak up when President Donald Trump and Congress tried to repeal ObamaCare – it is interesting that he is speaking up now.

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Governor’s Call for Special Session on Welfare

Posted by Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30
Dave Hansen, State Senator Dist 30 has not set their biography yet
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on Saturday, 20 January 2018
in Wisconsin

walkerWalker's call for special session on welfare reform last Thursday was attempt to divert people’s attention from latest Republican failures says Green Bay Senator.


GREEN BAY - Adam Jarchow lost in Tuesday’s senate election in part because he and his Republican friends chose to attack struggling families.

Despite voters’ rejection of these types of attacks, Governor Walker sees them as his opportunity to excite his supporters and shift their attention away from the fact that he, President Trump and Republicans in Madison and Congress have failed to help improve their lives.

Instead of giving a Taiwanese billionaire over $4 billion that will do little to help the vast majority of people in this state, a more informed governor might have decided instead to invest that money into our own families, businesses, schools and roads all across the state.

Now, seeing that his reelection ploy is not working, he is trying to divert the people’s attention by calling a special session to wage new attacks on working families and the poor.

Governor Walker’s call for a special session is another sign that he and legislative Republicans are running scared. It is a transparently political move that is just another reason so many people are voting for real change in Wisconsin and around the country.

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Tuesday's Vote Swing Shows Healthcare Professionals Engaged in Elections

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 19 January 2018
in Wisconsin

healthcareHealthcare professionals see elections as a necessary part of their work.


STATEWIDE - Healthcare professionals are getting involved in the 2018 Wisconsin elections. “I’m tired of the attacks on BadgerCare and I’m tired of the government not putting any regulations on pharmaceutical companies jacking up prices,” said Lynn Carey, a retired nurse who helped in Dennis Degenhardt’s race in Assembly District 58, “I volunteered for Dennis because of his stance on healthcare.” The seat swung 25% in the direction of the Democrat candidate.

Dawn Garcia, a healthcare consultant, volunteered for Patty Schachtner in her Senate District 10 win. Senate District 10 is a traditionally Republican district, but Schachtner won on the message of fully expanding BadgerCare and increasing mental health resources. Garcia state, “I think healthcare professionals are realizing that they have the power and responsibility to change the US healthcare system, and part of that is getting involved in elections.”

Garcia and Carey are part of Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s organizing co-ops network forming across the state, including the Western Wisconsin Co-op which includes Senate District 10 and Healthcare for All co-op in Southeast Wisconsin and which is made up of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

“We are only just beginning,” said Carey. The group is putting on a “Healthcare Jeopardy” governor candidate forum on Saturday, January 27 at 9:30am at MATC Milwaukee. They expect for the room to be full of newly politically-engaged healthcare professionals looking to get involved.

In addition to the health professionals involved, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Western and North Central Wisconsin Organizing Co-ops members also volunteered the Senate District 10 election.

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