Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Congressional budget analysts said Wednesday that repealing ObamaCare would increase the deficit by scrapping the law's taxes, fees and spending cuts. The notice from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) came ahead of Thursday's House vote on full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
The Obama administration announced that for the next two years, it doesn’t plan to penalize states that have yet to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health law by targeting them for reduced Medicaid funding.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has gone, hat in hand, to health industry officials, asking them to make large financial donations to help with the effort to implement President Obama’s landmark health-care law, two people familiar with the outreach said.
For the first time, the federal government will release the prices that hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Until now, these charges have been closely held by facilities that see a competitive advantage in shielding their fees from competitors. What the numbers reveal is a health-care system with tremendous variation in the costs of services.
One of the economic mysteries of the last few years has been the bigger-than-expected slowdown in health spending, a trend that promises to bolster wages and help close the wide federal deficit over the long term — but only if it persists.
As of May 1, 16 states plus the District of Columbia have approved the expansion or are headed in that direction, 27 have rejected it or about to and seven states could still go either way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fix budget glitch that hurts women

By Sara Finger
May 11, 2013 4:00 p.m.
Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget contains an unfortunate surprise for pregnant women in Wisconsin. I'm personally alarmed by this as a women's health advocate and as someone who recently gave birth to my second child.
The governor's budget bill contains a provision that would end BadgerCare coverage of pregnant women with incomes over 133% of the federal poverty level - which for an individual is as little as $15,000 a year and for a two-person household is about $20,000 a year. Let's celebrate this Mother's Day and National Women's Health Week by removing this unintended, ill-considered change from the budget.
The governor and officials in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services have stated that making this group of pregnant women ineligible for BadgerCare was included in the budget unintentionally and that the mistake would inevitably be fixed. Yet despite the budget being introduced in February, the damaging language in the bill remains even after the correction of other errors. It will remain there unless legislative leaders take action to remove it, and sadly there is no assurance that they will do so.
We simply can't risk making it harder for pregnant women to get prenatal and postnatal care. And since Walker maintains the proposal was inadvertent, it's crucial that lawmakers reverse this ill-advised change as soon as possible.
As currently written, the governor's budget bill would make these pregnant women making as little as $15,000 a year only eligible for a limited benefit plan called BadgerCare + Prenatal (BC+ Prenatal). Unfortunately, this BC+ Prenatal program relies on fee-for-service care, which is generally more expensive for the state, and women in some areas of Wisconsin would have trouble finding an obstetrician who will take new Medicaid patients under this plan.
BC+ Prenatal has several other shortcomings. It has a slower eligibility determination process, which could prevent women from receiving timely prenatal care. It also causes problems with continuous eligibility since BC+ Prenatal coverage can end any time a woman's circumstances change, leaving her without health insurance during a portion of her pregnancy. Alternatively, under BadgerCare Plus, a woman is covered throughout her entire pregnancy. The list of shortcoming with BC+ Prenatal goes on and the costs go up - both in health outcomes and associated pregnancy-related medical costs.
The prenatal care a woman receives is one of the most important factors in the health of her child. We should be thinking of ways for more pregnant women to gain access to health care services, not creating barriers that will result in fewer women seeing a doctor during pregnancy.
We take Walker at his word that this change to pregnant women coverage in our state was not intentional. But to date, he and his administration have failed to remedy the mistake, and he now has left the task of fixing his mistake in the hands of our legislators, who may not all appreciate the implications of restricting access to prenatal care. Are we willing to allow even a single preventable miscarriage or preventable premature birth to take place because of what was apparently a communications error in submitting the budget instructions?
State budget bills are large, complicated documents, bound to contain a few glitches. As we celebrate Mother's Day and National Women's Health Week, let's give Wisconsin women like me a very simple but important gift: access to the critical prenatal care we need and deserve.
Our children can't give this gift to us, but state legislators can and should. It's time our leaders correct this glitch that could threaten the life and health of a mother's future child and herself.
Sara Finger is executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

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Resurrected BadgerCare Changes Could Cause 29,000 Children to Lose Coverage
Two years ago, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services attempted to make a number of changes to BadgerCare that would have caused at least 29,000 children to lose their coverage, and many more to lose some of their benefits. Federal law prevented those changes from being enacted, but now many of those same proposed changes have been resurrected as part of Gov. Walker’s proposed 2013-15 state budget.

The presence of these proposed changes in the budget has largely gone unnoticed, to the chagrin of health care advocates. The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) today published an issue brief that examines the proposed changes and their potential impact in detail. David Wahlberg covered the issue in a front page article in the Wisconsin State Journal this morning.

Wisconsin legislators should remove these harmful program changes from the budget bill and have a full discussion of potential changes to children’s coverage at a time when changes are actually possible, and after the state has completed its evaluation of the effects of somewhat similar changes for parent coverage that were put into place in July 2012. Read more about WCCF's take in our press release.

Read our full analysis of the potential changes and impacts here.

In Case You Missed It – Recent Health Care Posts on the WisKids Blog:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Study Finds Expanded Medicaid Increases Health Care Use, New York Times, May 1, 2013
Come January, millions of low-income adults will gain health insurance coverage through Medicaid in one of the farthest-reaching provisions of the Obama health care law. How will that change their finances, spending habits, use of available medical services and — most important — their health?
Poll: 40 percent don't know ObamaCare is still law, The Hill, April 30, 2013
Forty percent of the public does not know that President Obama's healthcare law remains on the books and is being implemented, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
On Medicaid, a growing chorus tells Scott Walker to 'take the money', Cap Times, April 29, 2013
The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Psychiatric Association, UW Health and Meriter Hospital are among those lobbying for Walker to accept the federal money and not shift roughly 100,000 Wisconsinites from the state's Medicaid programs, known as BadgerCare, onto the health care insurance exchange soon to be in place under the federal health care reform law.
House bill uses prevention money to extend health care law coverage for high-risk patients, Washington Post, April 24, 2013
After dozens of attempts to overturn the new health care law, House Republicans on Wednesday took a different tack, promoting legislation that would come to the rescue of a prominent program in the new law at the expense of another vital element of the law.
The Obama administration has signed a new contract with a public relations firm to promote the central piece of ObamaCare. An official with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department said the department contracted with Weber Shandwick to promote newly created insurance exchanges, which are scheduled to come online in October.
A senior Democratic senator who helped write President Barack Obama's health care law stunned administration officials Wednesday, saying openly he thinks it's headed for a "train wreck."