Thursday, June 25, 2015

HealthWatch WatchDog Season 8, Episode 1: “Moving Forward...Finally!”

The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of subsidies for all Marketplaces. In this Episode of the HealthWatch WatchDog, Bobby and Brynne recap the opinion highlights and talk about moving forward for Wisconsin consumers.
Click here or on the image at the right to watch the episode!
Miss an episode? Visit our WATCHDOG LIBRARY to catch up on topics from previous seasons!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Subsidies or No Subsidies

In HealthWatch Wisconsin’s last update, we gave a quick refresher on the King V. Burwell case. As we await the impending decision, there’s a lot of speculation surrounding the outcomes of the Supreme Court case. If the decision favors Burwell (defendant of the current law) the subsidies will remain intact. However, there are a number of possible outcomes if the court rules in favor of King (who argues that the law says the federal subsidies are only available to consumers in state run exchanges). First and foremost, consumers in states without their own health care exchange, including Wisconsin, will lose their tax subsidies. According to DHS, that means more than 6 million people will lose their subsidies. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that in Wisconsin, over 160,000 individuals currently receive tax subsidies, leading to an average savings of $315 per enrollee. If the court rules against subsidies in federal exchanges, Wisconsinites could see a 252% spike on their premium payment.

Secondly, a ruling against subsidies may severely hinder the ACA’s mission. Without subsidies, current plans will be more than 8.05% of consumers’ incomes, and they’ll be exempt from the tax penalty for not having insurance. This means that a large amount of newly insured Americans, would again go uninsured, shrinking the insurance risk pool, increasing health care costs for all.

Many media outlets are predicting that rule will be in favor of the subsidies, however, it can be difficult to predict.  Technically, if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration, changes could take effect as early as August. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell, said that if this is the case, it will be up to state officials and Congress to help consumers find affordable coverage, although the administration will work with states in order to mitigate effects. We are expecting a Supreme Court decision by the end of the month.
Keep your eyes open for a Special Edition HealthWatch Update the moment the opinion is delivered, and we'll share the details, and what it could mean for Wisconsin!

Significant Drop in BadgerCare for Childless Adults in May

The May BadgerCare Plus enrollment numbers are now available, showing what appears to be the continued impact of “renewals” (or lack thereof) for the childless adult population. April was the first month for childless adults to renew their coverage (see Ops Memo 15-02) and enrollment declined by over 2,600. The May data, as predicted, followed suit—but the results were far more drastic than April. In May, almost 6,500 childless adults lost BadgerCare Plus coverage – which means in the last two months, over 9,000 childless adults have lost BadgerCare Plus.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Proposed BadgerCare changes hurt access to coverage


Lesley Kieffer 3:14 p.m. CDT June 1, 2015
Columnist says the governor’s budget proposal would make drastic changes to BadgerCare — a successful, cost-effective program in both rural and urban communities.(Photo: File/Getty Images/Creatas RF)
As a physician, I believe all Wisconsin residents deserve access to affordable, quality health care. Unfortunately, I am fearful that many low-income Wisconsinites to whom I provide care are at risk of losing health coverage as a result of recommendations contained in the governor's proposed budget.
The governor's budget proposes drastic changes to our state's Medicaid program, BadgerCare. BadgerCare has proven to be a successful, cost-effective program in both rural and urban communities over the past decade. It provides more than 800,000 men, women, and children across the state with access to affordable health care coverage.
The governor's proposed budget would require the state to request a waiver from the federal government to make changes to the BadgerCare program for childless adults. A "childless adult" is defined an adult without dependent children. The proposed changes include: requiring enrollees to pay monthly premiums; limiting lifetime eligibility to 48 months; and requiring drug testing.
These troubling changes have not received much attention from the media and seem to have flown under the radar in legislative debates regarding the budget. Unfortunately, if enacted, these changes would mainly serve to deny much-needed health care to thousands of low-income Wisconsinites.
While at first glance some of the changes might seem reasonable, people who work with low-income patients quickly recognize why they are so potentially harmful and have been failures when previously tried.
Kieffer  (Photo: Submitted)
Wisconsin already experimented with requiring low-income people enrolled in the Transitional Medical Assistance program to pay monthly premiums and it was a disaster: 21 percent of the adults affected by the policy lost coverage for failure to pay a premium.
Simply put, the people I see make so little money that they cannot afford to choose between paying health care premiums and other basic life expenses. If forced to choose, people will forgo needed medical care to put food on the table.
Limiting lifetime eligibility to no more than 48 months would be an unprecedented change that fundamentally undermines the purpose of BadgerCare, which is meant to be a reliable safety net that provides low-income people with health care.
Economic hardship doesn't always come with a time limit, especially given the reality of wage stagnation and job insecurity. Many of my BadgerCare patients are older adults waiting for their Medicare eligibility, with no other options for insurance. They cannot be left without options if they are 62 and have used their lifetime cap on BadgerCare eligibility.
Rural Wisconsin has not been immune to struggles with drug abuse. However, the drug testing provision raises serious constitutional questions, as a similar proposal for public benefit recipients was recently declared unconstitutional in Florida.
Just as importantly, similar provisions in other states have not been cost-effective and do little to actually help people with substance abuse disorders. If Wisconsin is truly interested in addressing substance abuse, we should direct our resources towards effective treatment programs.
In addition to these troubling proposed changes, the budget also continues the governor's failed policy of rejecting federal money to expand BadgerCare. As a result, there are thousands of low-income adults who cannot afford private health insurance but have too high of an income to qualify for BadgerCare.
Currently, a childless adult is eligible for BadgerCare if he or she earns an income at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), which is only $11,770 for an adult without dependents, or $980 a month.
Accepting federal Medicaid dollars would save the state at least $345 million and provide at least 81,000 additional Wisconsinites with the health care they need.
The Legislature should make the morally and fiscally sound decision to accept these federal dollars and reject the governor's unnecessary and harmful proposed changes to BadgerCare. Our health depends on it.
Dr. Lesley Kieffer, is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and a family medicine physician at Bellin Health De Pere West.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sara, today is the day to speak out for the health care access Wisconsin women need and deserve!
Out of the many issues and programs included in the Governor's state budget, one of the most concerning proposal is around changes to Wisconsin's BadgerCare program.

Currently more than 800,000 men, women, and children receive quality, affordable health care coverage through BadgerCare plans.  But the Governor's plan would make it harder for Wisconsin women without dependent children to afford and access the health care they need and deserve.
Governor Walker is proposing that Wisconsin women who make below $11,770 per year ($981 per month) be charged unaffordable monthly premiums for coverage, be required to perform a drug screenings assessment and would be limited to only 48 months on the program, If enacted, this proposal would likely cause many women to lose their health care coverage unable to afford the premium payments and would undermine the Governor's promise to prevent any coverage gaps in our state. 
Today, Wisconsin leaders are set to debate these changes and we need women's health advocates to speak out and let them know that Wisconsin deserves #ABetterBadgerCare!
Take a few moments to send a message to your elected representatives asking them to reject Governor Walker's proposed changes to BadgerCare and to expand Medicaid to ensure Wisconsin women and their families have access to the affordable and quality care they need and deserve. 
Make sure our leaders know we are watching and that we care deeply about ensuring Wisconsin women have access to affordable and quality care!

Together for women's health,
Connect with Us
Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health
PO Box 1726
Madison, WI 53701

Monday, March 30, 2015

8th Annual HealthWatch Wisconsin Conference: "R U Covered?"

Thank you for making this a success!

ABC for Health and HealthWatch Wisconsin are grateful for state policy makers, health care providers, health policy experts, and advocates who gathered to discuss public and private coverage options and strategies to help accurately guide people to health care and coverage they need and deserve. The “R U Covered” conference was a huge success! Not able to join us in Madison? Join us in Milwaukee in May!!

Here’s what people had to say about the conference:

“Congratulations on another fantastic conference!  It was great-- lots of good information and the legislative sessions and BadgerCare looking forward was really incredible.”
“Great job organizing and presenting the conference... The ‘Kevins Panel’ was terrific.”
“Great topics – hard to choose which workshop to attend!”
“Overall this was wonderful. My favorite part was hearing the Representatives talk--that was unique and beneficial.”
“The Legislative and BadgerCare discussions were AMAZING!”

Save the Date: The Building Blocks of Health Coverage

Join us for an afternoon of Medicaid and Marketplace Workshops!
Date: Thursday, May 7
Time: 12:30-4:30pm
Where: Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee
Registration will open in early April. Watch your inbox! For more information call Cassidy at (608) 261-6939 ext. 219.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Please note that A Better BadgerCare was formerly known as The Save BadgerCare Coalition.
Time to Speak Out for a Better BadgerCare!
Month Day, Year

Are you ready to speak out for A Better BadgerCare???
To have A Better BadgerCare in Wisconsin, advocates need to speak up and ask for two things:
1) Reject Governor Walker's Proposed Changes to BadgerCare, and
2) Expand Medicaid!
Link here to view A Better BadgerCare fact sheet with more information on these two asks and visit to learn more about what's at stake for BadgerCare in the State Budget.

We're calling upon individuals and organizations to speak out now and let members of the Joint Finance Committee know what A Better BadgerCare looks like.

Link here to send a message to all members of the Joint Finance Committee asking them to 1) Reject the Governor's Changes and 2) Expand Medicaid!

Be sure to forward this email to others interesting in A Better BadgerCare and stay connected with this effort on Facebook!  You can also visit us online.