Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WCCF Blog: Math Trumps Ideology in Some GOP States; How about WI

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Math Trumps Ideology in Some GOP States; How about Wisconsin?

Several Conservative Governors Decide to Accept Federal Funds for Improving Medicaid

Many Republicans governors don’t particularly like the Affordable Care Act (ACA); in fact, most have actively opposed it. Nevertheless, some of them are coming around and accepting the federal funding from the ACA to expand Medicaid up to 138% of the federal poverty level. An article today on Governing.com explains why some GOP governors have embraced the Medicaid opportunity in the ACA and many others are expected to follow their lead:
“Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval and New Mexico’s Susana Martinez were the first Republican governors to break from the national party and embrace the expansion -- and they probably won’t be the last. Their stated reasons for their change of heart echo what policy analysts and advocates told Governing they would be long before the governors made up their minds.
“It all comes down to dollar signs. If states choose to expand Medicaid, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs [for newly eligible adults] from 2014 to 2016. The feds' contribution will begin to decrease in 2017, but will never be less than 90 percent, under the ACA.”
The full federal funding and the employment boost that infusion of money will cause are key issues, but they aren’t the only selling points. (See, for example, our top ten list of reasons.) In most states, policymakers have been hearing from health care providers who want to close this gap in coverage in order to reduce uncompensated care.  As Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said early this week in her State of the State address:
“We will protect rural and safety-net hospitals from being pushed to the brink by growing their cost in caring for the uninsured.…  Health-care premiums are raised year after year to account for expenses incurred by our hospitals.”
In Wisconsin, Governor Walker and Secretary Smith have noted on at least a few occasions that the federal funding isn’t “free money,” and at times they seemed to be leaning against accepting that money to close the gap in BadgerCare coverage. It’s true, of course, that the federal funding comes from all of us as taxpayers, but Governor Brewer attacks that argument head on:
“Saying ‘no’ to this plan would not save these federal dollars from being spent or direct them to deficit reduction. No, Arizona’s tax dollars would simply be passed to another state – generating jobs and providing health care for citizens in California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or any other expansion state.”
Arizona, like Wisconsin, is a state that already provides coverage to some low-income adults who aren't caretakers of children, and those states will generally come out ahead because the federal government will pay a larger share of Medicaid costs for adults who are currently covered. With that in mind, Brewer’s speech concluded that taking the federal money and closing the gap in coverage would:
“reduce Medicaid pressure on the State budget… prevent health care expenses from eroding core services such as education and public safety, and improve Arizona’s ability to compete in the years ahead.”
The Governing.com article closes with a quote from Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University:
“Usually, in the history of the world, math trumps ideology.”
Whether that proves to be the case in Wisconsin remains to be seen.

Jon Peacock

Question for Wisconsin

Did you know that under the new health care law upwards of 200,000 more people in Wisconsin could have access to affordable health care coverage starting next year?
Even better? The money to cover them is already set aside.
By accepting federal funding to expand healthcare coverage, Wisconsin can cover more people, improve their access to quality health care including cancer screenings, and save millions of dollars that are currently being spent to treat the uninsured in our emergency rooms. 
All Wisconsin has to do is say yes.
Right now, we’re waiting on Governor Walker to make this decision. Does he accept the federal dollars that have been set aside to cover more Wisconsinites or turn the money down and let other states use it to provide health insurance to their residents? 
What do you think?  Should Wisconsin turn the money down or accept the money?
Allison Miller
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wisconsin Mental Health Agencies Will Lose Out on Millions if Walker Rejects Medicaid Dollars

Milwaukee:  At a press conference Thursday morning health advocates highlighted a crisis fast approaching.  Mental health and substance abuse agencies across Wisconsin would lose millions of dollars in federal dollars which flow through county governments if Governor Scott Walker rejects increased federal Medicaid money offered by the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law.  

Millions of dollars in federal money for county reimbursement of mental health and substance abuse clinics is set to be replaced by Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin), a more streamlined and efficient system of covering these patients as part of the Affordable Care Act. Last summer the Supreme Court, in their ruling on the Affordable Care Act, allowed Governors such as Walker the ability to reject increased federal Medicaid funds to improve BadgerCare.

The consequences of Governor Walker following that path is a massive blow to our state’s behavioral health system. By not accepting an estimated $12 billion over 10 years in Medicaid funding from the federal government, Governor Walker would be denying agencies one of the only other methods of reimbursement left to them. Milwaukee County alone is set to face over $3.6 million in cuts to mental health and substance abuse reimbursements to private sector agencies if the Governor rejects the funds. Furthermore, loss of revenue would prevent the creation of over 10,000 new jobs in the healthcare sector, many of which in the field of mental health and substance abuse. Over 900 agencies in Wisconsin perform these services, with locations in all 72 counties of the state.

“This is not just a question of accepting federal funds to fill in the holes in our state’s BadgerCare program” said Kevin Kane, Healthcare Organizer at Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This decision will show if Walker will allow a massive slash to private sector agencies that provide needed mental health services simply to curry favorite with the Tea Party base.”

"Without accepting the federal Medicaid revenue, clinics we work with and represent will be in a state of crisis”, said Rochelle Landingham, Program Director at WestCare Wisconsin.  “Without a means to fund mental health and substance abuse programs, agencies will have to end these programs; and that means closing of doors, further lack of care and loss of jobs."

“The Medicaid expansion is estimated to provide insurance for up to a third of people with mental  health and substance abuse disorders who are currently uninsured. Since cost is a major deterrent to people seeking care, it should reduce this barrier,” said Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy at Mental Health America in Wisconsin. “And, it will provide needed fiscal relief for counties who now serve a portion of this population.”

"There has been consistent messaging from Madison of bi-partisanship and staying focused on issues that matter. Thousands of residents in Milwaukee County and all over the state will benefit from the Governor making the right decision of accepting federal resources in this matter," said David Bowen, Milwaukee County  Supervisor. "We can not let partisan politics get in the way while residents with mental health and health care needs go without."

 Robert Kraig
Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin
221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 322-5324 (mobile)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013



I watched this and could not believe how heartless this so called human being is. Unfortunately here in WI, Walker and Smith are not any better.

Walker's BadgerCare decision

By Robert Kraig
Jan. 10, 2013
Of all the decisions Gov. Scott Walker is likely to make in 2013, none will have a bigger impact than whether Wisconsin accepts over $12 billion in federal health care reform money over the next decade to fill the holes in BadgerCare. The case for accepting this investment is so overwhelming that it is hard to believe any responsible leader would seriously consider turning it down.
It will guarantee hundreds of thousands of working Wisconsinites the freedom to control their own health care decisions, create thousands of 21st-century jobs in the health care professions and actually save the state budget hundreds of millions of dollars. It would be nothing short of public policy sabotage to turn the money down for the narrow partisan purpose of undermining the health care reform law. Yet Walker seems poised to do so.
To understand why this would be so damaging, some brief background is needed. Under the Affordable Care Act, health coverage is expanded in two primary ways: building competitive health insurance marketplaces (called exchanges) for moderate- and middle-income people, and filling the holes in Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin) for low-income residents by extending it to everyone under 133% of the federal poverty level - $14,856 in annual income for single individuals and $20,123 for couples.
BadgerCare is already more generous for the parents and caretakers of minor children, going up to 200% of the poverty line, but most low-income people without children or whose children are grown fall between the cracks. There are over 140,000 Wisconsinites on a growing waiting list. A recent report by the highly respected Kaiser Family Foundation finds that if Wisconsin takes the new Medicaid money, in 10 years an additional 211,000 Wisconsinites will be enrolled in BadgerCare.
Filling the holes in BadgerCare is essential because the health insurance market has failed to provide low-income Wisconsinites with affordable health insurance options, and low-wage jobs are far less likely to include affordable coverage.
People who lack access to stable and affordable health coverage do not have a fair shot at the American dream because they face a constant threat of having their careers devastated by health disasters that also become financial disasters. The critical role of government is to step in and fill the gaps when the private market fails to provide equal economic and social opportunity.
In addition to giving hundreds of thousands of low-income Wisconsinites the freedom to control their own health care decisions and to get ahead economically, accepting the new federal Medicaid money also will create jobs in the health care industry. According to an independent analysis by Jack Norman commissioned by Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the $12 billion in federal money for BadgerCare will generate a net of 10,000 new jobs. These new jobs will especially benefit women. A recent report by the National Women's Law Center found that Medicaid spending currently creates over 65,000 jobs in Wisconsin's health professions, 80% of which are held by women.
The public good done by filling the holes in BadgerCare justifies increased state spending, but the deal offered to Wisconsin under health care reform is so favorable that the state budget will actually save millions of dollars. Walker's health services secretary, Dennis Smith, seems to be laying the groundwork for turning down the money, claiming last month that it would be costly for Wisconsin.
However, according to the Kaiser study, Wisconsin would actually save $248 million over the next 10 years by accepting the increased Medicaid money because the federal government would pay over 90% of the costs of coverage for many current BadgerCare recipients for which the feds currently pay only 60% of the costs. According to the study, Wisconsin also would save an additional $247 million in the cost of uncompensated care because more people would have health coverage. In total, Wisconsin would save at least $495 million over the next 10 years by accepting the federal money to fill the holes in BadgerCare.
With a deal this good for Wisconsin, it is hard to believe that any responsible leader would refuse it. The most plausible explanation for Walker's hesitation are political calculations such as his desire to placate tea party extremists who want to sabotage health care reform at all costs and the influence of special interests such as the big insurance companies. Such an act of public policy sabotage would be shameful.
The governor does not have to announce his decision until he introduces his state budget in February, so there is still time for him to consider the true public interest and to do the right thing.
Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide advocacy organization located in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Robert Kraig
Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin
221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 322-5324 (mobile)
Donate to Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Friday, January 4, 2013

Personal Update

I had a CT scan yesterday morning and got the results late yesterday afternoon. I am still stable! I have been for almost two years now, there is no new growth, what's there has not grown and the hernia is also stable. It's possible that I had a virus that caused the previously mentioned conditions. I was not going to take any chances if there was a possibility of a blocked intestine, that's something that can cause death and can be avoided. I'm not ready to die yet, there is to much living to! My doctor will see me in six months for a follow up. I can't tell you how relieved I am!