Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HHS awards $40 Million in grants to sign up children for health coverage

Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan encourage governors to support back-to-school enrollment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced $40 million in grants for efforts to identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Grants were awarded to 39 state agencies, community health centers, school-based organizations and non-profit groups in 23 states. The two-year grants are authorized under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009.
“Today’s grants will help us identify and enroll children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, ensuring that more children have the health care they need,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Keeping Americans healthy from a young age is the right thing to do, and it saves money by avoiding preventable diseases and conditions as they get older. The activities we are funding will help eligible children get covered, stay healthy and prepare them to succeed in school.” The grants will build on the Secretary’s Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge to find and enroll all eligible children and support outreach strategies that have been shown to be successful. Grants were made in five focus areas:
  1. Using technology to facilitate enrollment and renewal (approximately $20 million to ten grantees)
  2. Retaining eligible children in coverage (approximately $3 million to four grantees)
  3. Engaging schools in outreach, enrollment and renewal activities (approximately $5 million to seven grantees)
  4. Reaching children who are most likely to experience gaps in coverage (approximately $10 million to fourteen grantees)
  5. Ensuring eligible teens are enrolled and stay covered (approximately $3 million to four grantees).
Grant amounts range from $200,000 to $2.5 million with the largest grants going to the technology focus area. For a list of grantees, please visit: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/reports/chipra/CHIPRA-Cycle-II-Grant-Summaries.pdf
“We are making great progress enrolling eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP and the grants released today help keep these important efforts moving forward. They are a part of our commitment to help all eligible children get the health coverage they need,” said Cindy Mann, CMS deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Certification.
A new study just released by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that, despite an increase in eligible children between 2008 and 2009, the total number of eligible but uninsured children declined from 4.7 million in 2008 to 4.3 million in 2009, in part due to outreach and enrollment efforts.
Efforts to streamline Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and renewal practices, combined with robust outreach activities, have helped reduce the numbers of uninsured children. For example, Oregon, a previous CHIPRA outreach grantee, has cut its percentage of uninsured children in half, from 11.3 percent in 2009 to 5.6 percent in 2011. In the past two years, Oregon enrolled 94,000 eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP. In addition to its efforts in reducing paperwork for families and establishing a timely and cost-effective online application process, Oregon used its grant funding to provide direct one-on-one enrollment assistance to families and conduct vigorous outreach activities throughout the school system.
“We want to help others achieve what Oregon has accomplished and more,” said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick, M.D. “Simplifying enrollment and renewal systems and ensuring that signing up for health coverage is standard practice in schools and health centers are central to sustaining the progress we’ve made. The CHIPRA grants are designed to support these efforts that will have lasting effects.”
Today’s CHIPRA outreach grant announcement follows the August 12, 2011 release of a joint letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the nation’s governors urging them to encourage schools to “undertake children’s health coverage outreach and enrollment activities when classes begin this fall.” The letter suggests promising strategies such as enlisting school athletic coaches to help promote enrollment. HHS is supporting such efforts by providing a strategy guide to states, schools, community groups, and other stakeholders as part of the “Get Covered, Get in the Game” initiative the agency conducted in 2010 with CHIPRA funding.
CHIPRA, together with the Affordable Care Act, allocates a total of $140 million for enrollment and renewal outreach, including $112 million in grants to states, community groups and health care providers, $14 million specifically for organizations serving American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), and $14 million reserved for national enrollment campaign activities. The first $40 million in grants, as well as $10 million in AI/AN grants, were awarded in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: August 18, 2011

CHIP Outreach Gets More Kids Covered

By Phil Galewitz
August 18th, 2011, 5:31 PM
If you build it, they will come … at least some of the time.
The number of children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)  but not enrolled fell to 4.3 million in 2009 from 4.7 million the prior year, according to a report out today.  The drop is significant because it occurred even as the number of children eligible for the programs rose by 3 million as a result of the economic downturn.
Researchers and federal officials attributed part of the improvement in signing up uninsured kids to the March 2009 reauthorization of the CHIP program, which spurred states to increase eligibility in the program as well as provided new federal funding to increase outreach and streamline enrollment efforts.  “Without the CHIP reauthorization we would not have seen these gains, “ said Genevieve Kenney, a study author and a health economist with the Urban Institute. The report comes from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $40 million in additional outreach and enrollment grants to states and non profit groups in 23 states. More than $40 million had already been awarded in 2009 and 2010.
The latest round of grants will focus on using technology to ease renewals and help enroll teens, among other things.
All but six states made gains in 2009 in increasing the children’s participation rate in Medicaid and CHIP, state and federal health insurance programs for the poor and disabled.
Still, there’s a huge variation in how well states make sure eligible kids are enrolled. The worst performing state was Nevada, which only had a 63 percent participation rate. Massachusetts had the highest rate at 96 percent.
Three states—Texas (693,000), California (661,000) and Florida (381,000)—account for 40 percent of the 4.3 million eligible but uninsured children.
There’s a good reason some states haven’t tried hard to get these kids into Medicaid and CHIP: It costs states money. And with their Medicaid expenses already skyrocketing, there’s pressure to not make the problem worse.
But the Obama administration has started offering states millions of dollars if they increase participation rates in the programs. The incentive funding and the outreach grants have helped Oregon cut their eligible but uninsured rate in half.
Meanwhile, Texas Medicaid officials say they are working on the problem.
“We’ve strengthened our outreach for Children’s Medicaid and CHIP, and that’s helping us reach more kids,” said Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. “We know that there are still many more children who would qualify for those programs if they applied, so we’ll continue to look for new ways to reach those families.”
Appeals Court Finds Health Reform "Mandate" Unconstitutional
A divided panel of three judges in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia found the "individual mandate" in health reform, the section that requires all individuals to own health insurance, to be "unconstitutional." The opinion ran over 300 pages as it described that "what Congress cannot do under the Commerce Clause is mandate that individuals enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die."
The lone dissenter, Judge Marcus wrote the following, "The individual mandate was designed and intended to regulate quintessentially economic conduct in order to ameliorate two large national problems: first, the substantial cost shifting that occurs when uninsured individuals consume health care services—as virtually all of them will, and many do each year—for which they cannot pay; and, second, the unavailability of health insurance for those who need it most—those with pre-existing conditions and lengthy medical histories.” (Emphasis added). The judges agreed that the rest of the health reform law remained constitutional.
There is now disagreement among the Circuits. Recall, in June, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio upheld the individual mandate and health reform law. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia has yet to make its ruling.
Transitioning from COBRA to HIRSP:

Some individuals are left with no options for health insurance coverage once their COBRA continuation coverage ends. Transitioning from COBRA coverage-after the 18 months of continuing coverage ends-to the Health Insurance Risk Sharing Plan (HIRSP) may be a good option for an individual with pre-existing conditions. There is one common barrier to quickly and efficiently enrolling in HIRSP, however: obtaining a letter of creditable coverage (proof they were in a group health insurance plan) in a reasonable amount of time. HIRSP asks applicants to verify that they lost their employer-offered group health insurance.
HIRSP requires the applicant to provide a certificate of creditable coverage from past insurers or employers as proof. In some cases, HIRSP will accept other forms of proof of coverage, but this may take longer as individuals at HIRSP will have to verify all the information. Before we get too detailed, recall the following background information on COBRA:
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.
Now, reconcile this coverage option of limited term with the option of applying for HIRSP. If you are applying for HIRSP because you lost your employer-offered group health insurance, you are required to meet all of the following requirements:
  • You lost your employer-offered group health insurance. As documentation, you are required to provide HIRSP with a certificate of creditable coverage from past insurers or employers or other forms of proof of coverage which HIRSP will verify (e.g. explanation of benefits, health insurance ID card(s))
  • You did not voluntarily cancel your coverage
  • You exhausted your continuation coverage under your employer-offered group health insurance, including state continuation coverage or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage, if offered. (If you elected COBRA, but found it was more expensive than HIRSP, you can enroll in HIRSP but will be subject to the 6 month waiting period for coverage of pre-existing conditions. There is no wait if your COBRA is exhausted.)
  • Including this employer-offered group health insurance, you have had continuous insurance coverage for at least 18 months with no gap in coverage greater than 63 days
  • You applied to HIRSP within 63 days of losing your employer-offered group health insurance, including COBRA if offered
  • You are not eligible for Medicare
Consider again the transition from COBRA to HIRSP. The HIRSP Authority needs a creditable coverage letter in order to finalize an application and provide an effective date. Often, an insurance carrier or former employer will need to be reminded to provide the letter as soon as possible. A letter is sometimes easier to remember if you are transitioning to HIRSP immediately after losing your employment and employer-sponsored insurance. It's harder to remember after taking advantage of 18 additional months of COBRA coverage. HIRSP will give applicants a 10-day buffer after their requested effective date to supply their letter. If needed, HIRSP will go so far as to call the former employer to verify dates of coverage.
HealthWatch Public Hearings: The Human Impact of Medicaid/BadgerCare Cuts in Wisconsin
HealthWatch Wisconsin has posted the complete video footage of public testimony on the impact of proposed BadgerCare+ and Medicaid cuts that will affect 1.2 million Wisconsinites covered by these programs. In March, HealthWatch Wisconsin sponsored two days of public hearings during the HealthWatch Wisconsin Annual Conference, drawing hundreds of people to listen, learn, and for some, to share their stories and the stories of loved ones. HealthWatch Wisconsin staff was on hand to record participants' testimony.
State & National News
Analysis and Comment
Assembly Bill 210: Power to the Commissioner and the Rolling Back of Insurance Protections
HealthWatch Wisconsin has been following Assembly Bill 210 (AB 210), introduced by Rep. Petersen (R-Waupaca). AB 210, relates to the "implementation of health insurance reform, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and granting rule-making authority." 
Rule Making Authority: This bill gives Wisconsin's Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) rule-making authority (equivalent to the delegation of legislative authority the state budget granted Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith). The draft provides the Commissioner with the authority to promulgate rules as emergency rules that may remain in effect for one year, and may be extended. Further, these emergency rules may be promulgated without the usual finding of emergency required under current law.
Re-defining "Small" Business: The bill repeals the existing definition of "small business," instead saying that small means "one to one hundred employees." The difference? This would result in a larger number of plans being subject to the lower medical loss ratio percentage of 80% (as opposed to the stricter 85%) in health reform.
Internal and External Appeals: In the bill, OCI is able to roll back the improvements made to Wisconsin's existing internal claims and appeals processes and external review, for starters, claiming to be more "consistent" with health reform. In reality, the bill strips Wisconsin law back to the bare minimum federal requirements.
Independent Review Organizations (IROs): Current Wisconsin state law contains extensive requirements for IROs under Wisconsin law. AB 210 repeals current law provisions and sets out parallel requirements for IRO certification which are not as detailed as those in current law.
Finally, the bill provides "for a repeal of all health reform insurance law changes should the law be held unconstitutional."
Bill Provisions Not Required by Health Reform: While the bill is being described as the "implementation of health reform bill," there are numerous provisions in the bill not at all required by the Affordable Care Act. A few are called out here.
  • Rate filings: Unlike the health reform law, AB 210 allows the Office of the Commissioner to refuse to disclose rate filing information if the office determines that information to be proprietary.
  • Review process: Internal and external review processes are required under health reform, but the repeal of existing statutes that comply and are more generous is not required.
  • Definition of “small employer”: Health reform allows "small business" to mean 50 employees" if a state would like to implement that definition.
  • Rule-making: Health reform does not require a commissioner be given authority to promulgate rules as emergency rules (without a finding of emergency), which remain in effect for one year, and may be extended.
  • Potential finding of unconstitutionality: This exemption is not required under health reform.
Ten Considerations for States in Linking Medicaid and the Health Benefit Exchanges
Carolyn Ingram, Suzanne Gore, Shannon McMahon, CHCS, Inc., 15 August
"States face many challenges in addressing the Medicaid expansion provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Foremost among them is forging effective linkages between publicly funded programs and the newly established health benefit exchanges (HBEs)."
'Ankle Phone Call' Could Save Time and Money in the ER
Shefali Kulkarni, KHN Blog, 15 August
Well if you do, maybe you should call ahead to the emergency room instead of immediately driving over."
State will switch to public workers for FoodShare program
Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 August

"In a deal that preserves millions of dollars in federal aid to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker's administration will drop hundreds of private contractor employees who work for the state's food assistance program and hire scores of public workers as replacements."
Health care mandate ruled unconstitutional
Andrew Harris, Bloomberg, 12 August
"The 2 to 1 ruling conflicts with an earlier decision by a federal appeals panel in Cincinnati, which upheld the individual mandate. The provision exceeds Congress’s power to regulate commerce, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled yesterday, affirming in part a lower court in a lawsuit filed by 26 states."
BadgerCare not done, advocates say
Jon Swedien, Eau Claire Leader Telegram, 11 August
"State and regional health advocates are working to spread the word that despite changes to BadgerCare Plus, Wisconsin's low-income health care program is still open to children, families and pregnant women."
Will Wisconsin's Scott Walker Implement Health-Care Reform?
Sarah Kliff, Washington Post, 11 August
Wisconsin’s closely tracked recall election may have wrapped up, but don’t stop paying attention to the Badger State."
BadgerCare Plus tour stops in Eau Claire
WEAU, 9 August
"A group advocating the importance of signing up for BadgerCare Plus for families rolled into Eau Claire Tuesday."
State agency defends passing up $9 million in grants
Greg Neumann, WKOW, 5 August
"A rejection of federal grant money by the State of Wisconsin is causing some health advocacy groups to cry foul."
Medicare prescription drug costs unlikely to rise in 2012
International Business Times, 5 August
"The average monthly premium for Medicare’s prescription program is not expected to go up next year, the agency said Thursday."
DHS declines to seek $9 million of potential health care grants
Jon Peacock, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, 4 August
"The DHS response is that it doesn't pursue grants that duplicate existing efforts, aren't needed, haven't received enough planning, or might lead to ongoing programs that would later require state funding."
Officials fear health care cuts
Jake Miller, Wausau Daily Herald, 4 August
"Local health care officials fear a bipartisan Congressional committee tasked with cutting another $1.2 trillion from the budget will reduce Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates paid to hospitals. The end result: People with private insurance would cover the difference, officials said."
State declines to request or back $9 million in health grants
Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3 August
"Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith hasn't signed onto grants that would have focused on fighting drug and alcohol abuse; assessing health impacts of public policies; and signing up state residents who qualify for state health programs, officials at the agency and other health groups said."
For health insurance exchanges, devil's in the details
Jason Millman, Politico, 1 August
"Exchange governance boards will be busy between now and January 2013, when Health and Human Services must determine whether a state’s exchange passes muster. Building an exchange — an online marketplace where consumers can shop and compare health plans — will require information technology expertise, as well as an intimate understanding of how insurance markets operate."
Lawmakers eye super committee
Scott Wong & Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico, 1 August
"Publicly, most lawmakers say they have no desire to be named to the so-called super committee tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts to the deficit by Thanksgiving. But behind the scenes, some are already beginning to jockey for seats on the 12-member bipartisan panel, which many see as a historic opportunity to overhaul the Tax Code and entitlements."

Click here for more health care news!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Future Of Health Care In WI

This article was featured in Cap Times by Shawn Dougherty, the facts are being twisted to push through the Walker agenda. Please notice how the information was presented to reporters if they were lucky enough to be allowed in. From now on this will be the way information is released. I don't like this, it's not acceptable!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

News From The Internet

Medicaid News



Child Poverty


Class Warfare


The statistics Fox News used were the same as the ones I posted back in June titled: Poverty As Defined By The Heritage Foundation. The stats were taken from the 2000 census and by now are no longer accurate, the world has changed dramatically since then. The horrific comments made by people from Fox were uncalled for and disgusting. Please watch this clip, it will put things into perspective.

Social Security Disability


Affordable Care Act News


Wisconsin Health Care News



Food Stamp News



Monday, August 22, 2011

Van Jones: Rebuild The American Dream D.C Rally

Dear American Dreamer,
I have an invitation for you. I want you come to Washington, D.C. with me October 3-5, 2011, for an event I couldn't be more excited to announce: the first-ever national gathering of the American Dream movement.
Maybe you haven't yet heard, but something big is happening in America. Beneath the corporate media's radar screen, it is growing faster and buzzing more than anything we've seen in recent memory.
We call it the American Dream movement. That's an apt term for the hundreds of thousands of good people who are fighting everywhere to rebuild the American Dream.
This year, we've watched this people-powered phenomenon grow out of the courage and inspiration from Wisconsin and spread across the country. From massive protests in the state legislature in Ohio to 45,000 Verizon workers on strike today, people nationwide are standing up.
This summer, hundreds of thousands more of us came together in person and online to craft our plan for fixing our broken economy. We created a comprehensive jobs agenda: "Contract for the American Dream." It has already been endorsed by 270,000 thousand people.
Now it's time for us to gather in person, to learn from each other, get inspired, and show everyone that we will not back down. On October 3-5 we're going to do all that and more at the Take Back the American Dream conference hosted by our friends at the Campaign for America's Future.
Will you join me for Take Back the American Dream? Click here to register.
We'll have movement leaders, local volunteers, students, teachers, unions, community groups, and more all coming together to help strengthen our new movement.
We can't wait any longer for politicians in Washington, D.C., to save us. The tea party promotes policies that would kill our dreams. The American Dream movement promotes policies that will save them. Please join us in the nation's capital to begin the process of taking America, not back, but FORWARD.
We will all look back at this event and remember it as a huge step forward for showing that what's going on right now is the birth of a movement—the American Dream movement.
This will be a powerful moment, and I hope you'll join me October 3-5.
Click here to register now.
Thank you.
–Van Jones

SBC Timeline

As we're all aware, the final State Budget include cutting $466 million from our Medicaid program.  In order to make these cuts and meet these savings, the  Wisconsin Department of Health Services needs to put together a Waiver Application to the national Center on Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to request approval for any changes made. Based on this requirement, here are some important next steps to be monitoring:
1) DHS releases draft Medicaid Waiver Application with proposed changes that may impact to Medicaid's benefits, eligibility, and reimbursement rates - expected to happen by end of August or early September.
2) Public Comment Period.  Opportunity for stakeholders and the public to weigh in on proposed changes.  Amount of time and method of receiving public input, not known. 
3) DHS finalizes and submits Medicaid Waiver Application to CMS. Likely to happen in October.
4) CMS reviews application - opportunity to share public input with CMS.
5) CMS rule on acceptance, rejection or amendment on Waiver Application by December 31st, 2011.
6a) CMS rejects proposal and DHS lowers adult eligibility to 133% FPL and revoke coverage for 60,000 individuals. OR
6b) CMS approves proposal and DHS recommendations  (unknown at this time) move forward for implementation OR
6c) CMS amends with changes unknown for implementation in Wisconsin.
Be sure to stay tuned for more information regarding opportunities to take actions at each of these junctures.  This fight is far from over and we will continue to work to Save BadgerCare and protect it's integrity, the affordability, benefits and eligibility!
Thank you.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Watching the wrangling in Washington and in WI, has really shown the world where people stand on 'entitlements.' On one hand you have a growing part of the population that has suffered a major blow, not only are they aging, they have lost massive amounts of money in 401k's, if they still have a job, they are under employed, many are unemployed, health issues are creeping in and cost of living is skyrocketing. The social safety nets are needed now more than ever and here in WI the Walker Admin. is doing everything they can to get rid of them.

Then we have the other group, those that expect and demand corporate welfare. They have no problem accepting taxpayer money for subsidies and tax exemptions. They have been able to whittle their taxes down to little or nothing. Why is this? Because they have been elevated to the stature of 'job creators' sounds god like doesn't it? And as we all know, you have to appease the 'gods' lest they get angry and wreak havoc on us mere mortals! This was on display for the world to see during the debt ceiling debate and they showed they where willing to take the entire world down to avoid losing their precious tax breaks. And they kept flipping it, they insist that it's the aforementioned groups fault, that group is the problem, not them. When threatened with a lose of their 'entitlements' they become down right vicious and they sent their high priced lawyers and lobbyists out to make sure they hold onto those entitlements. The other group doesn't have that luxury, they don't have anyone to defend them in that manner. And yet they continue to claim that people like me are lazy and feeding off the system, I wholeheartedly DISAGREE! I am trying to survive not only a rare disease, but I am trying to survive these horrible politicians and special interest groups!

As I see it those that insist and demand on getting all the breaks and not pulling their weight to help solve the problems don't deserve a helping hand or even a voice. And yes, I am also talking about those that milk off the assistance programs. All of us need to take responsibility for our lives and while the deck is heavily stacked against the poor, elderly and disabled, we are capable of taking control of our lives. In fact, the disadvantaged can be more creative in problem solving than those that get everything handed to them. We have become adept at making adjustments, pooling resources and using our God given talents to make ends meet.

If you are disabled, their are programs out their that will help in re-education and job training, in WI it's called the DVR. (This is one program Walker actually put money into.) Even if you don't participate in such a program, locate your local social workers, they have access to all programs available to help. Thankfully I have a wonderful family that has stepped into help when needed. Never take family for granted, they can be a great source of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on when things are bad. This is something I think the other group doesn't understand or appreciate, time and again we have seen the wealthy and powerful rise and when things go bad, their friends and family abandon them. If you have developed strong family bonds, they are there through the good, the bad and the ugly. I guess what I am saying is... stay close to your family, and seek the help of a social worker. Find as many resources as possible to help yourself. Despite what the other side says we are not the problem, we are still valuable and have something to offer, we may be slightly damaged physically but at least we are not morally bankrupt!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Message Matters - Media Matters Action Network

Wisconsin Fighting Back

Today in Wisconsin, six Republican politicians are facing recall for putting their corporate donors ahead of ordinary working people. These referendum elections are a wake-up call to Republicans everywhere who put their jobs and their donors before the rest of us and a reminder to all Americans that we all can fight back to make our lives better.

Politicians who take away our jobs don't deserve to keep theirs.

Connect: Our country needs more jobs, not less - and we've had enough of politicians who don't get it.

Define: Instead of looking out for working families and our seniors, Republican politicians in Wisconsin laid off our teachers and nurses so their rich campaign donors could get even richer.

Discredit: Firing people is no way to create jobs or help American families, in Wisconsin or anywhere else. Fewer people working means less money in our pockets and fewer customers for our small businesses.

Core values: Our leaders should put working people and seniors before their wealthy campaign donors. The people of Wisconsin are showing how it's done.

"The recalls in Wisconsin are just a local story - we shouldn't be paying attention to them."

* The Wisconsin recall elections are a wake-up call to Republicans everywhere who put their jobs and their donors before the rest of us and a reminder to all Americans that we all can fight back to make our lives better.
* We are all better off when our leaders put the people who elected them first -- not the corporate donors who funded their campaigns. Just look at the recent stock market dives.
* All over Wisconsin, firefighters, bus drivers and bridge inspectors are joining teachers and nurses to take action and throw these Republicans out of office. They're leading the way and we should follow their example.

"Democrats are attacking Wisconsin Republicans for being fiscally responsible and doing the job they were elected to do."

* We elect our leaders to create jobs, not take away the good jobs that hard-working people already have. Instead Wisconsin Republicans slashed funding that keeps teachers in our classrooms and protects health care for working families and seniors.
* We can start solving our budget problems right now by telling millionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share and using the money to pay the Americans who keep our kids educated, our families healthy and our country running.


* Six Republican state senators are now facing recall elections in Wisconsin after sparking a public backlash with their deeply unpopular proposals.
* A large majority of Americans oppose trying to fix budget deficits at the expense of ordinary, tax-paying workers who have done nothing wrong. Yet Wisconsin Republicans still laid off thousands of teachers and nurses and took away their right to even have a seat at the table in negotiating their workplace benefits and safety.
* Experts say that taking away hardworking Americans' seat at the negotiating table does nothing to address budget deficits.
* Most people agree we should raise taxes on millionaires and big corporations rather than cut funding for our schools and health care for struggling families. Yet Wisconsin Republicans are still slashing almost a billion dollars from Wisconsin schools and cutting health care for tens of thousands of low income Wisconsin families, children, and seniors.
* Powerful corporate CEOs have too much influence over the Wisconsin Republicans' agenda. The billionaire Koch brothers strongly supported Governor Walker's campaign to take away Wisconsin workers' rights. Now one of their front groups has donated over half a million dollars to help Republican state senators keep their jobs.
* It's not just Wisconsin voters who are fed up with Republican politicians -- nearly three-quarters of Americans disapprove of Washington Republicans' handling of the recent default crisis.
* Even though most Americans' top priority is putting Americans to work, Washington Republicans have tried to eliminate nearly 7 million jobs this year.

We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working. See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.

Recall Voting Today!

I watched the Ed Show last night from Madison and he seemed nervous about today's recall voting. It seems he is worried that people won't get out and vote and it will be severely damaging to the progressives and Democrats if Democrats lose this fight. I agree, if Democrats don't win this fight in WI, the Republican agenda will run rampant across the country. I said it before, WI is the petri dish, if the Republican agenda succeeds here the entire country is screwed, if we think it is bad now, it will be much worse if they get a sniff blood in the water.

It is reassuring to know that there were so many people fighting to stop Walkers corrosive agenda, we need to win this not only for WI, but for the entire country! Huffington Post is running a section on the recall and is updating it on a regular basis, stay informed!

Monday, August 8, 2011

WCCF Update

Senator Ron Johnson announced that his staff will hold office hours around the state to meet with individuals needing assistance with a federal agency or wanting to discuss other federal matters. This is a good opportunity to talk about Medicaid, education, Social Security, Medicare, and other federal topics important to you. Although, Senator Johnson will not be attending his office hours, he will have his staff attend them and to report to him on what was said.

With all the action last week in DC, please take the time to read WCCF Research Director Jon Peacock's article, "THE DEBT CEILING DEAL: MEDICAID DODGES A BULLET, FOR NOW." I have attached the article after the list of office hours.

The office hours will be held:

Tuesday, August 9
10:30 am -- 11:30 am
Auditorium, Chippewa Falls City Hall
30 West Central Street
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729

Tuesday, August 9
3:00 pm -- 4:30 pm
Conference Room, Superior City Hall 204
1316 North 14th Street
Superior, WI 54880

Wednesday, August 10
9:30 am -- 10:30 am
Small Conference Room, Rusk County Courthouse
311 Miner Avenue East
Ladysmith WI 54848

Wednesday, August 10
12:00 pm -- 1:00 pm
Gays Mills Community Building
212 Main Street
Gays Mills, WI 54631

Wednesday, August 10
12:00 pm -- 1:00 pm
Council Room, Phillips City Hall
174 South Eyder Avenue
Phillips, WI 54555

Wednesday, August 10
3:00 pm -- 4:00 pm
County Board Room, Iron County Courthouse
300 Taconite Street
Hurley, WI 54534

Thursday, August 11
9:00 am -- 10:00 am
Conference Room, Ashland City Hall
601 Main Street West


For the moment, Medicaid providers and advocates can breathe a large sigh of relief that the program was largely spared from the first $900 billion of federal budget cuts. However, the work to protect Medicaid has only just begun, since Congress will soon embark on an effort to find another $1.5 trillion of cuts and interest savings.

In a blog post on Monday, I summarized the 3-part strategy that the bill creates for cutting a total of $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The first part of that process is about $900 billion of cuts that were locked into place by the new law. These cuts include $350 billion from defense and security spending and $550 billion from non-defense discretionary spending. Fortunately, “discretionary” spending does not include Medicaid.

The second stage is the creation of a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral Congressional “supercommittee,” which is charged with producing a plan by the end of the year for $1.5 trillion in further cuts (and interest savings) from entitlements and tax revenues. Although the deal allows additional revenue to be part of the solution, Rep. Boehner continues to insist that GOP members won’t vote for any compromise that includes added revenue. This stage is where Medicaid is very vulnerable to significant cutbacks. An Aug. 1 Washington Post column by Suzy Khimm outlines 5 approaches the committee might take for reducing Medicare and Medicaid spending.

The third stage comes if the committee fails to produce a bill or the bill doesn’t pass. That would trigger “automatic” across-the-board cuts in the amount of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. One half of those cuts will be in defense, and one half will be in entitlement programs. However, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, SSI, SNAP, child nutrition programs and TANF are exempt from the cuts. Medicare can be cut, but there is a cap on that cut and it only applies to providers.

This process will be frightening to watch as it unfolds, but will also be extremely interesting politically. Pro-defense lawmakers will probably fight to ensure that the supercommittee comes up with a plan, thus avoiding automatic cuts that fall heavily on defense spending. However, many of the same legislators are likely to oppose any tax increases. Democrats will try again to insist upon a more balanced plan that also includes some additional revenue, and if they can’t get that concession then they could potentially block an agreement in committee and force the fallback solution, which protects Medicaid and other entitlements. In other words, the alternatives were crafted in a way that gives Democrats some leverage to protect entitlements – if the Democrats can hold together.

Many other areas of health care spending are at even greater risk. In the latest post from the series “Notes on Health Insurance and Reform,” Kaiser Family Foundation experts assess possible effects on the health reform law’s cost-sharing subsidies, which were created to make health care more affordable for lower- and middle-income people.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave!


Vote Sara Finger as Young Nonprofit Leader of the Year

Hello friends!

Judges have selected Sara Finger as a Top 25 Finalist in Young Nonprofit Leader of the Year . Out of hundreds of qualifiers, the judges determined that her achievement was one that stood out as one of the most inspiring and impactful. As many of your know, Sara is the coordinator of the Save BadgerCare Coalition and has worked hard to organize a united voice to protect access to health care in Wisconsin.

The CLASSY Awards recognize the top philanthropic achievements by charities, businesses, fundraisers and volunteers from across the country. The winners receive national exposure and more than $150,000 in cash & prizes for their cause.
The Top 10 Finalists will be selected by a popular vote. As a Finalist, her story will be featured on their Public Voting Page from July 25th until August 26th. During that time, anyone can visit www.classyawards.org and vote once in each of the 12 CLASSY Awards categories.

If you would be so kind to link here ASAP to submit your vote for "Sara Finger" under the "Young Nonprofit Leader of the Year", we'd greatly appreciate it. We're really hoping Sara can make it to the final 10 to receive this recognition along with $150,000 in case and prizes the important work of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, including the coordination of the Save BadgerCare Coalition.

And if you can forward this email on encouraging others to vote too, that will go a long way in helping us be in the top 10 nationwide.

Thank you in advance for your time and support. If you're interested,click: http://www.stayclassy.org/stories/sara-finger-leads-progressive-charge-toward-social-justice-for-women to view her nomination page.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Making Medicaid As Easy As A Netflix Membership

By Christopher Weaver

August 3rd, 2011, 1:19 PM

AUSTIN, Texas — My application for Medicaid in Oklahoma was denied. That’s no surprise, but this is: It took all of 11 minutes to find out — from clicking on the state’s enrollment website to receiving the decision — about the same amount of time invested in launching my Netflix account.

That’s because the state is the first to fully automate enrollment in Medicaid, the state-federal partnership that provides health coverage for low-income people. Such automation is a key ingredient in making the federal health overhaul law a success.

The law will steer about 16 million people into the program for the first time as eligibility expands to higher earners. Millions of others will get health coverage through state- or federally-run “health insurance exchanges,” and many of them will have to pass through a Medicaid enrollment process to qualify for subsidized premiums — a laborious and time consuming journey in many other states. And, given that Medicaid will be extended to individuals earning up to $43,560, dragging them through a state welfare office is considered a hard sell.

Before Oklahoma’s Web-based enrollment system launched last September, “every Medicaid application involved paper and a state employee,” said Mike Fogarty, the chief executive of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which runs Medicaid there.

The state expects at least 250,000 new enrollees as a result of the health law, bringing the total up to 1 million. That could have meant a lot of state workers, and a long, long paper trail. Fogarty, speaking at a Medicaid IT conference here, says the new system will allow the state to add those people quickly: “The nice thing about computers is volume is not a problem.”

Fogarty and his colleagues are clearly proud of their work. The authority posted a promotional video in which staff members play the roles of women who enroll in Medicaid while sitting around the living room for a chat.

Oklahoma may be ahead of the curve in making Medicaid enrollment a “first class customer experience,” as required by the health law. But, ironically, the state is among the handful that has rejected federal entreaties to build health insurance exchanges. A law to authorize the exchange fell flat in the state legislature during the spring session.

In fact, the state had to turn down a $54.5 million federal grant — to develop it’s exchange and serve as a role model for other states — when officials there turned against any vestige of the health law.

Richard Evans, the director of the Oklahoma agency’s automation efforts, said his colleagues are “modifying” the system to “be ready for the exchange” even though politics lag behind. Fogarty said members of his staff — a semi-autonomous state agency — continue to meet with federal officials to discuss exchanges.

Oklahoma’s high-speed enrollment system was built using federal grants issued several years ago that were not part of the health law. But, aside from a handful of states, including Oklahoma and Wisconsin, few have updated Medicaid enrollment systems in recent years.

Many states still use systems up to 40 years old, some of which were built shortly after Medicaid began in 1966 and computers took up entire rooms, said Susan Arthur, vice president of U.S. health care for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services. HP, which helped build Oklahoma’s system, is looking forward to a wave of updates prompted by a health law rule that will steer an extra $2.2 to 3.6 billion to states to create such systems.

“The automation that will happen will be about dealing with the 32 million people” who will gain coverage as a result of the law, said Arthur, who expects about 25 states to pursue similar systems in coming years. “For any state to handle this volume, they’re going to have to get effective automated enrollment.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a survey in June of what states are up to in this area. While 32 states allow users to submit applications online, no other has yet figured out how to verify the data — a sometimes complicated exchange of information with other agencies — and actually enroll, or deny, a potential Medicaid recipient. (KHN is an editorially-independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

To be sure, Oklahoma’s system isn’t perfect. For example, the Web portal works with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but not with Apple’s Safari browser.

Evans said his technical staff is working out such issues. One younger staffer, he said, told him older people might use Internet Explorer, but they had to make the portal work with Mozilla Firefox, too.

“What the hell is that?” Evans recalled asking.