Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Video Case Tips Just Added!

HealthWatch members continue to request fresh Video Case Tips with a focus on hot topics - and we listened! Check out these brand new videos recorded recently in ABC for Health's studio: Each informative video in our Video Case Tip Library includes links to resources or more information. You can watch these videos at any time—they’re on-demand and available wherever there is an internet connection!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

State Budget & Bucks Arena Town Hall
July 23, 2015 from 6-7:30pm
Please spread the word

Find out how the $73 billion state budget and the $500 million proposed Milwaukee Bucks arena deal will impact you. I welcome you to join invited guests from the state, City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County for a briefing and question and answer session. Please, stop by my Town Hall Meeting tomorrow night, Thursday, July 23 from 6-7:30pm at Greater New Birth Church, 8237 West Silver Spring Drive, Milwaukee, WI. To RSVP, click here. To help spread the word, please forward this email or share the event on your Facebook wall. 
            WHO: All interested persons
          WHAT: Town Hall Meeting to discuss the state budget and Bucks arena deal
          WHERE: Greater New Birth Church, 8237 West Silver Spring Drive, Milwaukee, WI.
          WHEN: Thursday, July 23 from 6-7:30pm 
Here to serve,
Sen. Lena Taylor
4th District

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

From Healthwatch

WI Budget Signed Into Law

Last week, state Assembly passed Wisconsin’s proposed budget. The bill passed 52-46 with a GOP majority vote, each member of the Democratic minority, along with 11 Republican members voted against the proposal. The two year, $72.7 billion state budget passed after senators repealed salary minimums for employees on local government projects and discarded changes to the state’s open records law. Lastly, it made its way to the Governor's desk where Walker made 104 vetoes.

What's Next?
 Gov. Walker will now seek federal approval for the following changes:
  • Imposing monthly premiums for childless adults, and increasing premiums for “behaviors that increase an individual’s health risk”
  • Limiting eligibility for childless adults to 4 years
  • Requiring health risk assessments and drug screening as a condition of eligibility for childless adults
The bill also makes changes to programs effecting individuals with disabilities and the elderly. These changes include:
  • Include, Respect, I Self-direct (IRIS): Eliminating IRIS and instead requiring the managed care organizations of Family Care Reform to offer the option to self-direct their care.
  • Governor Walker vetoed Family Care and IRIS' processes used to make sure rates paid to agencies are sound, specified the state has to have at least 5 regions for the programs, and put limits on enrollment periods.
  • Mental Health and AODA Services: Expanding Medicaid coverage to include residential-based substance abuse treatments.
  •  Personal Care Services: These services currently help beneficiaries in need of assistance with daily activities such as eating, drinking, bathing, dressing, and household chores. The proposed changes require beneficiaries to conduct an “independent assessment” for all fee-for-service prescriptions.
  •  Aging & Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs): The Joint finance committee negated Gov. Walker’s proposal to eliminate county-run ADRCs, but included provisions which require DHS to conduct studies relating to the reliability of the ADRC processes. These include: an assessment of duplicative functions between ADRC boards and DHS procedures, and integrating income maintenance consortia and ADRCs.

Friday, July 10, 2015

From the Desk of Lena Taylor

Open Records Law change blows up in Republicans’ faces
As you may know, late last week, Republicans slipped several provisions into the Wisconsin state budget as part of the Joint Committee on Finance’s motion #999 that essentially wiped out the state’s open records law. Luckily, the Senate voted to pull the provisions completely out of the state budget. Wisconsin has such a rich history of open government. We've recently learned that the deal even included input from Governor Walker's office. Governor Walker and Republicans showed their true colors on this one, proving we need to keep our eyes out for something like this returning in the future.

 Senate passes Walker’s budget
Walker’s controversial budget drew major bipartisan votes in opposition due to its negative impact on public education, transportation, and jobs. This budget should have been better from day one, except Governor Walker has been more focused on his presidential campaign than his Wisconsin constituents. Walker failed on his job creation pledge and Wisconsin is poised to face more fiscal irresponsibility in the future because of this budget. To see my full statement on my disappointment with the budget, please look here.

State Senate key budget amendments
On July 7th, the State Senate met for an extraordinary session, where we worked through many amendments. Sadly, the Democratic notion to help bolster the now-cut funds of our K-12 public education was voted down, as was our attempts to lessen the cuts to the UW System and lessen student debt.  Unfortunately, Republicans also killed a measures to increase funding for disabled students in our school system as well. Education is a right that every person is afforded; these cuts are just seeking to hurt our children and their future. Eighty-five percent of our Milwaukee students cannot read at their grade level and we must address education first and foremost.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Subsidies or No Subsidies

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

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

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

Significant Drop in BadgerCare for Childless Adults in May

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Proposed BadgerCare changes hurt access to coverage


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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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

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

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

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

Thank you for making this a success!

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

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

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

Save the Date: The Building Blocks of Health Coverage

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Video Case Tip: Changes in Income

We recently created a mini-series on what to do if you experience an Increase or Decrease in Income for purposes of both BadgerCare Plus and the Marketplace. In these videos ABC for Health's Rich Lavigne talks about the importance of reporting income changes and what the implications of either an income increase or decrease would be.

Click here to watch the Video Case Tip on an Income Increase.

Click here
to watch the Video Case Tip on an Income Decrease.
What problems are you seeing in your area?
Send your questions or comments in an email, and we'll create a follow-up web cast filled with the answers!
All our videos are archived in our Video Case Tip Library so you can visit them at any time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Health Insurance Enrollment Events

Open Enrollment in Marketplace coverage ends Sunday, February 15, 2015. Due to this, many places in Wisconsin are participating in Enrollment Events throughout the next week. For a full listing of events or to find one in your area, please visit e4healthwi.org.
Don't Forget: Open Enrollment in the Marketplace Ends February 15!

Open enrollment through Health Reform's Marketplace runs through this Sunday, February 15. February 15 will be the last day that consumers can get health insurance coverage through the Marketplace for 2015. After February 15, consumers can only enroll through a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) by experiencing a Qualifying Life Event.
To enroll through the Marketplace, visit HealthCare.gov. The site also has a new feature where you can "window shop" for plans to see what coverage might cost based on income and age.
Qualifying Life Events include:
  • Having a baby, adopting a child, or placing a child for adoption
  • Getting married
  • Losing other health coverage (this does not include voluntarily dropping coverage)
  • Being denied or losing Medicaid or CHIP coverage
  • And more! Watch our Video Case Tip on "Qualifying Life Events"
Remember, by not purchasing insurance by February 15, you may either have a gap in coverage or be subject to a penalty for being uninsured for more than 3 months in 2015. Time is of the essence. Also--BadgerCare Plus is always open - you can apply at any time! You can start your application for BadgerCare Plus through HealthCare.gov or access.wi.gov.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Video Case Tip: BC+ Renewals for Childless Adults

In this Video Case Tip, Brynne McBride of ABC for Health discusses how renewals will look for Childless Adults who signed up for BadgerCare Plus in April of 2014.
Click here or on the picture to the right to view the Video Case Tips.

What problems are you seeing in your area?
Send your questions or comments in an email, and we'll create a follow-up web cast filled with the answers!
All our videos are archived in our Video Case Tip Library so you can visit them at any time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Survived Round Two!

Surgery went very well, the Doctors were able to remove almost 100% of the mucinous tumors, the organs are intact and I'm on my way to a solid recovery. However they were not able to fix the hernia, that will be for another time.

One drawback is that I woke up with diabetes and GERD. I was totally shocked about the diabetes, to be honest, it's literally been a pain, I don't enjoy stabbing myself before I can eat, it totally takes the joy out eating. Thankfully, I have an appointment with an endocrinologist, I'll need all the help I can get!

Everyday I can stand a little taller and stay awake a little longer, all good signs! I look forward to getting back into my workshop and picking up where I left off, lots to do yet before the season starts, but I'm confident, I'll be a good season as long as I'm prepared.

In a future post, I'll give you my insight on healthcare, I observed quiet a bit while at the hospital.