Sunday, March 25, 2012

WAWH Supporter E-Update
Vote Today & Help Win $10,000 for the 
Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health
Cast your vote today and every day through April 15th to help win $10,000 for the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health!
Merz Aesthetics recently named Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health Founder and Executive Director, Sara Finger as one of three finalist for their first-ever STAND and DELIVER Award.

Merz Aesthetics, along with an advisory panel of women who were selected for their significant abilities to STAND and DELIVER, recently conducted a nationwide search for inspirational women who are changing their communities one day at a time through support of a non-profit organization. Sara, along with two other women, was chosen as finalist for her innovative spirit and ability to shepherd the involvement of women from all walks of life in an effort to raise the status of Wisconsin women's health. 

The public can cast their vote for the finalist they think best STANDS and DELIVERS for their cause through April 15th.  The STAND and DELIVER grand prize winner will receive $10,000 to support her favorite charity.

As noted in her nomination, "Early in her career, Sara realized that healthy women lead to healthy families; and healthy families lead to healthy communities. In her dedication to advancing women's health, she founded the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, a non-profit dedicated to engaging, educating, empowering and mobilizing individuals and  organizations to take a stand for women's health." To view her full nomination, link to

Please vote every day through April 15th and spread the word so others can cast their vote and help to raise critical funding for the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Two Years Ago The Affordable Care Act Was Signed

I watched the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law and I had my son watch it with me, it was history in the making and yes, Biden had it right .. it was a big f'ing deal! Watching this hit me hard because I was two months into my recovery after major surgery and all I could think was... now mothers and fathers will not have to die due to a lack of health care, they have a chance to survive for their childrens sake. And those with pre existing like me can no longer be denied insurance. Finally people had a fighting chance against the insurance companies that gladly take your money then deny you the benefits you have paid for. I looked around the internet for articles about the ACA and found a few that I thought were interesting they are posted below. The Supreme Court will begin listening to arguments on Monday, I truly hope they rule in favor, but I'm also realistic, there are more justices opposed...than for this law. Most people see the cost involved, I see it as lives saved and improved.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This afternoon, March 21st, the White House will honor Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health Executive Director, Sara Finger as one of ten Champions of Change who are dedicated to improving access to health care.  These individuals are helping others in their community understand the impact and opportunities from the health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

"The President's health law gives hard working, middle-class families the security they deserve.  The Affordable Care Act forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy through annual or lifetime limits, and soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition," said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Thanks to the people attending today's event, Americans across the country are learning more about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and getting the health care they need."

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama's Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities. 

To watch this event live, visit at 12:30 pm CT today.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

State legislators walking backward on openness

I have mentioned this many times on this blog, Dennis Smith the secretary of health has been given the authority to make changes to medicaid behind closed doors and with no input from the public or legislator. The tea party republicans have established their own manner of governing and it does not include 'we people'.

Video Of Joint Finance Committee

To watch video of yesterday's (march 14th) Joint Finance Committee hearing on revised changes to BadgerCare, link here:  The discussion on BadgerCare begins at the 1:30 mark.
NHeLP is celebrating the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) next week by releasing a "Top 5" factsheet each day that highlights important aspects of the ACA.  Today, we are kicking off the anniversary week early with a Top 5 focusing on Medicaid.  For more information on NHeLP's ACA second anniversary activities, click here

#1 in a series of 6

5 Ways Health Reform Helps
Medicaid Beneficiaries

  1. ALREADY IN PLACE: Protection for Medicaid enrollees 
    The ACA included a "Maintenance of Effort" provision prohibiting states from cutting eligibility for adults until 2014 and children until 2019. If states do not comply, they can be sanctioned and lose all federal Medicaid funding. This provision has protected the Medicaid coverage of millions of individuals who would otherwise have lost Medicaid as states sought to reduce spending due to the poor economy.
  2. ALREADY IN PLACE: More preventive care
    The ACA includes numerous provisions which expand access to preventive services. For example, the ACA has already distributed "Medicaid Incentives for Prevention of Chronic Disease" grants for states to engage in diabetes prevention, cholesterol and blood pressure screening, and tobacco cessation. Starting in 2013, Medicaid preventive benefits will include a broader array of services and states will receive increased federal funding if they provide these services without cost-sharing. Another provision requires that, starting in 2014, many Medicaid enrollees will receive some services that may be new to Medicaid, such as habilitative services, and will have access to a wide range of women's health services.
  3. COMING SOON: Medicaid expansions
    Starting in 2014, the ACA creates a new Medicaid eligibility category covering nearly all uninsured individuals living under 138% of the federal poverty level. Sixteen million people will be newly eligible for Medicaid. The ACA also creates other options for states including expanding family planning services, providing new home and community based services and programs, and offering other services for higher income individuals not otherwise eligible for Medicaid.
  4. COMING SOON: Better access to primary care providers
    The ACA will substantially increase the Medicaid payment rates in 2013 for certain primary care providers (internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics). These providers will get the higher Medicare payment rate for primary care services. This provision will help improve access to primary care providers for enrollees and support the safety-net providers who take care of underserved populations.
  5. COMING SOON: Improved enrollment processes
    The ACA heavily invests in simplifying the process of enrolling in health care. Starting in 2014, states must have one streamlined application process for all health care programs, including Medicaid and private exchange insurance plans including available subsidies. The ACA also provides start-up funding for state consumer assistance programs and health care navigators to ensure that every individual receives help understanding her options and getting enrolled.

Here's how NHeLP is working to make health reform a reality:
  • NHeLP has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the ACA's Medicaid expansion. Brief available here.
  • NHeLP has written regulatory comments to help protect the rights of consumers in the new Medicaid expansion and enrollment processes. Comments available here.
  • NHeLP has advocated, led national sign-on letters, and written comments to help improve the Essential Health Benefits standard. Comments available here.
  • NHeLP has worked in numerous states to develop expansions in Medicaid and other related programs, such as the Basic Health Plan option. Basic Health Plan issue brief available here.

Health reform has done so much already - let's finish the job!
For questions or comments, please email   For more information on NHeLP's ACA second anniversary activities, click here. 

The National Health Law Program protects and advances the health rights of low income and underserved individuals.  The oldest non-profit of its kind, NHeLP advocates, educates and litigates at the federal and state levels. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tell Your BadgerCare or Medicaid Story
At the 5th Annual HealthWatch Wisconsin Conference, attendees heard Rep. Roys, Rep. Mason, Rep. Hulsey, and Rep. Richards encourage the state, legislature, and governor to do more listening. They encouraged the people of Wisconsin to share their voices, be involved in the process, and tell lawmakers why BadgerCare and Medicaid are important. Now's your time to RAISE YOUR VOICES!
  • Are you one of the nearly 125,000 childless adults stuck on the Core Plan Wait List?
  • Are you a mother or father just making ends meet who's concerned about the effects of the proposed Alternative Benchmark Plan on your child's BadgerCare coverage?
  • Do you worry about the possibility of losing access to Family Planning Only Services?
  • Do you have another health care issue that needs to be brought to attention of DHS officials and policymakers?
CLICK HERE to complete a story form and email it to ABC for Health or call and talk to one of our advocates (608) 261-6939 ext. 229 and let them know you are calling to tell your BadgerCare story!

Birth Cost Recovery - A Response

At the 5th Annual Conference, HealthWatch debuted a special edition Reporter newsletter on the topic of birth cost recovery and infant mortality in Wisconsin. Medicaid uses the term “birth cost” (or “lying-in cost”)  to describe a pregnant woman’s medical bills and expenses associated with a  pregnancy and baby’s birth. But there is a problem: Medicaid requires identified fathers to pay these expenses for unmarried women enrolled in Medicaid programs, but Medicaid does not require the fathers of children born to married women on Medicaid to pay any birth costs. County child support agencies are responsible for collecting this money from fathers.
The special edition Reporter has already generated some media attention. The Badger Herald covered the story, stating, "The report found Wisconsin collected more than $18 million in birth costs from unmarried fathers last year, more than any other state with similar policies. It also raised concern that recent budget cuts to child support enforcement may incentivize local offices to act more aggressively in obtaining birth costs from unmarried fathers." The Wisconsin State Journal also covered the story, but, unfortunately, arrived at some inaccurate conclusions about the families impacted by this policy.
CLICK HERE to read ABC for Rural Health's Mike Rust response to Chris Rickert's birth cost recovery story.
BadgerCare+ Bulletin Features Consumer's Companion to Health Reform
Print Your Free Copy Today!
HealthWatch Wisconsin circulated the popular "Consumer's Companion to Health Reform" to BadgerCare+ Bulletin subscribers, reaching over 1500 additional readers! With funding from the Wisconsin Law Foundation, ABC for Health developed the publication and released it free to the public in time for the HealthWatch Wisconsin Conference. Intended for use by those not too familiar with the complex legal and medical vocabulary found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Consumer's Companion simplifies some of the key rules of health reform, so that anyone can learn how the law will affect them and their families. Download it FREE from the ABC for Health website!

The Status of Health Care Exchanges: HHS Issues Final Rule

On February 28 at the HealthWatch Wisconsin Annual Conference, Senator Kathleen Vinehout (pictured at right) described her vision of a health care exchange for our state, following SB 273, legislation she introduced to provide a competitive health insurance market to Wisconsin's small businesses and individuals. However, the current Administration returned the planning and "Early Innovator" funding to Washington, the money specifically intended for the development of Wisconsin's health exchange. And the timing could not have been worse.
Already, a majority of states have taken significant steps to build exchanges. HHS announced recently that 33 states and the District of Columbia have received over $667 million in Establishment Grants to begin building their exchanges.
On March 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced policies to help states build insurance exchanges. Printed as "final rules" in the Federal Register, HHS outlined the design requirements for the insurance exchanges due to launch January 1, 2014. The rule sets minimum standards states must meet, such as eligibility for individuals and employers, and the minimum standards insurance companies need to meet to participate in an exchange. Finally, the rule sets standards for employers. Last year, HHS issued two separate "proposed regulations" that generated a lot of feedback. HHS included "more flexibility for states" than envisioned in those earlier drafts, mostly for states to determine eligibility requirements for their exchanges. The new rule also presents details on the role of agents and brokers in the exchanges, while protecting the privacy of enrollee data. “These policies give states the flexibility they need to design an exchange that works for them,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Smith Plan Cuts 23,000 -- almost 3,000 Kids -- from BadgerCare

Joint Finance Committee Rubber Stamps New Changes to Medicaid Proposal

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS) continues to negotiate with the federal government on its proposal to reduce BadgerCare Plus coverage and services. This week, Wisconsin's Joint Committee on Finance reviewed DHS's newly adjusted proposal--one that preserves BadgerCare coverage for children, yet impacts cost-sharing and enrollment for adults.
On Wednesday, March 14, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) discussed and voted on a request by DHS Secretary Dennis Smith to revise the previously proposed changes to Wisconsin's medical assistance programs. Summarized in a memo by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, these revised changes include new premium schedules for non-pregnant, non-disabled adults above 133% FPL in BadgerCare Plus and the BadgerCare Plus Core Plan. The new proposal preserves the Transitional Medicaid Program (TMA), which the original proposal would have eliminated. However, adults in TMA will be subject to a similar premium schedules.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the revised proposals would reduce BadgerCare participation by nearly 23,000, which includes 2,940 children and 384 pregnant women and newborns. The premium changes alone will affect 17,000 adults, those between 133% and 150% FPL. While significantly less detrimental than the original DHS waiver request, which proposed to reduce BadgerCare enrollment by more than 64,000 people, some members of the Joint Finance Committee argued that these cuts are still unacceptable for Wisconsin's low income residents.
Read more on this Joint Finance Meeting below!

REMEMBER: The current proposal does not reduce BadgerCare+ eligibility for children, and as of today, BadgerCare Plus coverage remains unchanged for children and families!
And, if you missed the JFC meeting, or you would like to watch it again, you can find it on WisconsinEye.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

State budget committee approves Medicaid changes

MADISON — A plan to raise premiums for some of the poorest people enrolled in Wisconsin’s Medicaid programs passed a Legislature budget committee Wednesday, but officials say it won’t affect enrolled children, pregnant women, disabled people or the elderly.
The Joint Committee on Finance voted along party lines to approve the plan proposed by the state Department of Health Services, who wants to lower the income level at which families must pay a premium. That would affect about 44,000 participants who previously didn’t have to pay.
When the proposal passed, a packed room erupted into shouts. Some chanted “Shame!” as they held signs in support of BadgerCare, a program that provides medical care to poor families and adults.
DHS Secretary Dennis Smith, who said the department faces a budget gap if the changes weren’t approved, said the plan would keep more people enrolled in the programs like BadgerCare.
Gov. Scott Walker’s original proposal would have resulted in 65,000 poor adults and children leaving the programs, either because of eligibility or because they couldn’t afford coverage.
According to data from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the new income pay scale would only drop about 23,000 people.
Smith endorsed the premium changes, which he said would not affect children, pregnant women, disabled people or the elderly.
“I think they’re fair. I think they’re equitable,” Smith said.
The monetary request is part of a tentative agreement between DHS and federal health officials as the state officials try to close what the Fiscal Bureau said would be a $141 million shortfall by July 2013.
The committee’s four Democrats took turns questioning Smith about the possible impact on roughly 10,000 benefit participants — the number of people the bureau said would leave Medicaid programs in response to the increased premiums.
But Smith defended the figure, saying it’s a matter of perspective of what one considers affordable health care.
Committee chairman Robin Vos, R-Burlington, defended the request and said a few extra dollars in weekly contributions to a health care premium was still going “above and beyond” to ensure residents they can have affordable health care.
“It’s a very reasonable plan,” he said.
Wisconsin’s Medicaid programs currently cover about 1.1 million people. The number has grown by nearly 10 times the rate of the state’s population during the past two decades, driven both by need and by expanded program offerings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finance Committee Meets Wednesday on DHS Revisions to BadgerCare Plus Changes

Revised Fiscal Bureau Paper Provides Comprehensive Analysis of Potential Changes to BadgerCare

The Department of Health Services (DHS) has modified some of its proposed changes to BadgerCare during the course of the negotiations with federal officials regarding the requested waiver of federal “maintenance of effort” requirements. Because one or two parts of the DHS revisions are inconsistent with current state law and differ from the proposals previously approved by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), they trigger the requirement for JFC review. In particular, the committee needs to approve applying premiums to adults between 133% and 150% of the poverty level, rather than only to families above that income level.

The JFC has scheduled a meeting for this Wednesday, March 14, to consider those changes. Although I expect the changes to be approved easily by the committee, the meeting provides an opportunity for JFC members to question DHS and learn more about the status of the efforts to change BadgerCare. In addition, the scheduling of this meeting prompted the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) to prepare an updated summary and analysis, which includes both the current and previous changes proposed by DHS.

The budget repair and biennial budget bills approved last year allow DHS to make sweeping changes to BadgerCare and Medicaid, even if those changes conflict with current state statutes and regulations, and DHS can make those changes without using the normal rulemaking process. That power shift largely strips the Legislature of its role in shaping BadgerCare; however, there is still one vestige of legislative oversight. Proposed changes that conflict with current state law may be reviewed by the JFC. By longstanding tradition, that “passive review” process means that the committee will hold a meeting on an agency proposal if any committee member objects to the proposal, and at least one member has objected to the revised DHS proposals.

The JFC review process is small consolation for those of us who believe that lawmaking should involve all legislators (and their constituents), but at least the JFC review and involvement of the Fiscal Bureau make additional information available to the public. Last fall, for example, advocates tried unsuccessfully to find out how many people were likely to lose BadgerCare coverage as a result of the changes proposed by DHS. We were unable to get that information directly from the department, but finally got it a couple of days before the JFC meeting in November, when the LFB provided a thorough compilation of the DHS estimates underlying the projected cost-savings.

WCCF is preparing a synopsis of the new 14-page LFB paper, and we will post that on our website on Tuesday. In the meantime, here are a few of the key points from the Fiscal Bureau’s analysis:
  • The revised DHS proposals would reduce BadgerCare enrollment by an estimated 22,835 people, including 2,940 children -- in contrast to nearly 65,000 people under the original plan.
  • The revised MOE-related proposals would reduce BadgerCare spending by $91 million, of which about $36.5 million is state GPR funding (not counting potential savings from the Alternative Benchmark Plan).
  • In contrast to the original DHS plan for increasing premiums, which was expected to result in more than 12,100 children losing their BadgerCare coverage, the new plan for raising premiums won’t apply to kids, but is expected to cause a somewhat larger drop in adult coverage (7,595 instead of the previous 7,114).
The JFC meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Room 412 East. The BadgerCare review is the last of seven items on the agenda.

Jon Peacock

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Richards, Erpenbach urge budget committee chairs to act now on
BadgerCare Protection Act

Madison—Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) today formally asked the chairs of the Joint Finance Committee to immediately schedule a public hearing and vote on the BadgerCare Protection Act (SB 538).  SB 538 would stop the state health department from implementing changes to BadgerCare that would result in tens of thousands of Wisconsinites losing state health care coverage.  A new corporate tax loophole would be closed to fund the measure.    

“Budgets are all about choices,” Richards and Erpenbach wrote in their letter to Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos. “Unfortunately, the state budget put corporate profits before affordable health care. The BadgerCare Protection Act provides an opportunity to undo that bad choice by protecting affordable health care and restoring some fairness to Wisconsin’s tax code.”
The BadgerCare Protection Act:

·         Prohibits DHS from implementing higher cost sharing requirements and other changes to BadgerCare that will result in tens of thousands of Wisconsin families losing coverage;
·         Repeals a new tax loophole created in the state budget that allows large corporations with subsidiaries to retroactively claim business losses to lower their tax liability for up to 20 years, costing state taxpayers about $40 million annually;
·         Takes $17.1 million from closing the corporate tax loophole to protect BadgerCare and deposits the balance into the general fund to help close the budget deficit; and
·         Prohibits DHS from requiring government issued photo IDs as the sole source for verifying state residency for BadgerCare eligibility purposes.

Organizational supporters of SB 538 include: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Save BadgerCare Coalition, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, 9 to 5 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Grassroots Citizens of Wisconsin, Coalition for Wisconsin Health, Greater Wisconsin Committee, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, AFSCME, South Central Federation of Labor, National Association of Social Workers Wisconsin Chapter, AFT Wisconsin, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, ABC for Health, Wisconsin Physicians for Social Responsibility.