Wednesday July 17, 2019

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Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300, Milwaukee, WI 53204.

We Can Win this Election on Healthcare

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 27 October 2018
in Wisconsin

hcsignmattMILWAUKEE, WI - I am absolutely thrilled with the direction of this election!

At Citizen Action we made a strategic judgement years ago that if we organized to elevate the issue of pre-existing condition discrimination, health care would be a decisive election issue.

Now years of organizing is paying huge political dividends. Here we are in the home stretch of the critical 2018 election, and pre-existing condition discrimination is the driving issue in the Senate and Governor’s races.

Right Wing politicians are in panic mode. Leah Vukmir shockingly claimed in her debate with Tammy Baldwin this week that pre-existing condition discrimination is a “big lie” that never happened. Scott Walker is taking on water on this issue, despite his best efforts to mislead the public record of health care sabotage.

We have them on the run, but we need to keep the pressure on through election day!

I hope I can count on you to make an immediate donation to Citizen Action so we have the resources to tell as many voters as possible that conservative politicians will make pre-existing discrimination legal again.

As I wrote in a strategic memo almost 3 years ago about a term invented by insurance bureaucrats to obscure the truth: What is absolutely astounding about pre-existing conditions is that this seemingly innocuous term seems to be known by virtually every adult.. . . . The idea of someone being denied or thrown off health insurance because they have a medical condition strikes a deep emotional chord in American culture, and seems deeply immoral to most people.”

The new Marquette Law School poll released on Wednesday backs us up on this. It shows a stunning 93% of likely Wisconsin voters think pre-existing condition discrimination is an important issue heading into the election.

No wonder Scott Walker, Leah Vukmir, and all the right-wing Legislators who are locked in tight re-election fights, are terrified.

If you agree with me that pre-existing condition discrimination can help us bring down Scott Walker and hLeah Vukmir, and shift control of the Legislature, please chip in whatever can to support our work.

In Peace & Solidarity,

Dr. Robert Kraig

Executive Director

P.S. We are also building support or constructive solutions to the health care cost crisis. We are the driving force behind the BadgerCare Public Option bill, which Tony Evers strongly supports. The BadgerCare Public Option is a big stepping stone towards the ultimate solution, Medicare for All.

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Walker Plan Does Not Make Up for Cost of Sabotage

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Monday, 30 July 2018
in Wisconsin

affordablecareGovernor now finds it convenient to pretend to care about health care costs, but 7 years of sabotage of the ACA reveals that he has been more than willing to play politics with the lives of Wisconsinites.


STATEWIDE - Governor Scott Walker is touting the approval by the Trump Administration of his complicated health insurance scheme that does not even begin to make up for the cost of ongoing efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

scott-walker-talksWalker’s complicated scheme called “reinsurance” funnels $200 million in direct public subsidies to insurance companies in the hope that they would lower premiums for some consumers. The proposal does not require that health insurance companies pass on any savings to consumers, and even if they did it would only impact a small percentage of Wisconsinites.

Reinsurance will not help anyone who gets insurance at work or small businesses or most people who buy insurance on their own. Although Governor Walker claims it is focused on people who buy insurance on their own, it will not impact 83% of the Wisconsinites who buy health coverage through the ACA marketplace and receive tax subsidies. Reinsurance will not effect deductibles or copays. It will only modestly help the 17% of enrollees who make too much money to be eligible to federal tax credits

Walker’s press release touts a 3.5% reduction in premiums for some Wisconsinites who buy insurance on the ACA marketplace, a much lower number then what was claimed when the proposal was introduced.  But according to the Urban Institute just two of Donald Trump’s acts of sabotage, refusal to enforce the individual mandate and the extension of short term “lemon” health plans will increase premiums by 18.2%.

There are a number of far more effective policy changes that would make health coverage much more affordable if we deployed the full power of state government.

  1. Opening BadgerCare to everyone in Wisconsin as a public option would reduce premiums and deductibles by an average of 38%. It would also help people who buy insurance on their own and small businesses, most of whom cannot afford to provide coverage to their employees.

  2. Reversing Walker’s decision to turn down the Medicaid expansion money in the ACA could reduce premiums by about 7%.

  3. Reversing the Walker Administration's decision in May to continue to allow the sale of substandard “lemon” plans in Wisconsin could reduce premiums by as much as 10%.

In addition, although Walker has decided to tout what he is doing to stabilize the ACA, he approved the filing of a lawsuit by the Wisconsin Attorney General that would strike down the law, taking health care away to nearly 200,000 Wisconsinites.

“Scott Walker now finds it politically convenient in an election year to pretend to care about health care costs, but 7 years of sabotage of the ACA reveals that he has been more than willing to play politics with the lives of Wisconsinites who do not have good coverage at work,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “More corporate subsidies are not the answer. It is a simple truth that only “we the people,” through the agency of our own democratic government, can guarantee health care to everyone in Wisconsin.”

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Wisconsin Pharmaceutical Price-Gouging Bill Announced

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 07 March 2018
in Wisconsin

news confBill would give Attorney General power to investigate skyrocketing generic drug prices set by big pharmaceutical corporations to lower prices and protect Wisconsinites.


MADISON - At a news conference at the State Capitol today Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Senator Dave Hansen (Green Bay) and Rep. Jimmy Anderson (Fitchburg) announced new legislation that would empower the State Attorney General to block pharmaceutical corporations from price-gouging patients who depend on generic prescription medications.

Skyrocketing generic prices are harming families in Wisconsin and across the nation. A 2016 GAO report found that 1 in 5 generic drugs had an “extraordinary price increase” of at least 100%; 48 generic drugs had price increases by 500%; and 12 generic drugs had price hikes over 1000%. Well known examples are Albuterol (asthma medication) which increased 4,014%; Doxycycline (medication for bacterial infections) which spiked up 8,281%, and Pravastatin (heart conditions) which jumped 573%.

Pharmaceutical corporations have been pocketing the increases as profit, failing to give  legitimate explanations for the shocking price hikes. Under the legislation, the Attorney General can petition the circuit court to enjoin price gouging, or compel a corporation to justify large rate increases.

dave-hansen“It’s time to shine a light on what is becoming a very dark corner of the generic drug market,” said Sen. Dave Hansen, the Senate author of the bill. “People who can least afford it are getting squeezed by corporations and CEOs bent on generating bigger and bigger profits without any regard for the potential harm their greed is costing patients both in terms of dollars and personal health. This should not be an acceptable business practice here in Wisconsin.”

jimmy-anderson“Prescription drug prices are one of the leading out of pocket healthcare expenses for Wisconsin families. The ability of pharmaceutical companies to corner the market and set unreasonable prices hurts consumers, while doing nothing to improve treatment or outcomes,” said Rep. Jimmy Anderson, the Assembly author of the bill. “By enabling the Attorney General to order documents from drug manufacturers, we will better understand how drug prices are being set and how to control prescription drug costs. This legislation is vital in ensuring that our healthcare industry is focused on protecting Wisconsin families rather than simply kowtowing to the whims of massive drug manufacturers. It is imperative that we act now to protect Wisconsinites from exorbitant, unfair costs before this problem grows any larger.”

“As a practicing primary care physician I see first hand the growing financial burdens placed on patients and their families due to rising health care costs,” said Dr. Nike Mourikes at the news conference. “One in five Americans report skipping medication dosing or skipping prescriptions because of cost. This pharmaceutical price-gouging bill has come not a moment too soon, because the well-being and in some cases the lives of our fellow Wisconsinites hang in the balance.” (Dr. Mourikes is a member of Physicians for a National Health Plan and of Citizen Action’s Health Care for All Organizing Co-op)

robert-kraigAt the news conference Courtney Waller, the parent of a child with a complex disease who is literally kept alive by prescription medications, told the story of the vulnerability of her family to prescription drug prices. “This is a story you her time and time again from Wisconsin families who have children with medically complex diseases. And it is an issue which keeps many of us up at night.”

“The only way to protect Wisconsinites who rely on prescription drugs from exploitation at the hands of giant pharmaceutical corporations is to use the full power of our democratic government to even the playing field,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “In recent years the Legislature has abdicated its role as a public watchdog, and that needs to change. Senator Hansen and Rep. Anderson are to be commended for offering common sense legislation empowering the Attorney General to intervene on the public’s behalf when the greed of pharmaceutical corporations threatens the lives and livelihoods of Wisconsinites who depend on vital medications.”

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Citizen Action Endorses Tim Burns for State Supreme Court

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 15 February 2018
in Wisconsin

tim-burnsBurns a breath of fresh air in corrupt Supreme Court election process says statewide progressive social justice group.


MILWAUKEE, WI - Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide progressive social justice group with members across Wisconsin, announced Tuesday its endorsement of Tim Burns for State Supreme Court in the primary election on February 20. The Citizen Action board of directors is making the endorsement after an extensive process that included a candidate forum, intensive candidate interviews, and input from Citizen Action Organizing Co-op leaders throughout Wisconsin. Citizen Action’s Organizing Co-ops are member-owned democratically elected chapters throughout Wisconsin.

What impresses Citizen Action leaders and members about Tim Burns is his willingness to discuss his progressive values with voters instead of perpetuating the charade that a judge’s philosophy does not influence their decisions. Wisconsin needs a Supreme Court Justice who will fight for average people against the big corporate interests that are rigging the Wisconsin judiciary.

Citizen Action members and leaders believe that the traditional nonpartisan model for State Supreme Court campaigns is now badly outdated because dark money campaigns by right wing groups and corporate interests have taken over the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. To tell voters that a judge’s values or their financial benefactors don’t impact their decisions is misleading and undemocratic.

Tim Burns offers the sharpest contrast to the right-wing candidate Michael Screnock, who is running a typical “trojan horse” right-wing judicial campaign. Screnock claims he will be a nonpartisan judge who merely interprets the law, but is the chosen candidate of Scott Walker and the Republican establishment. Screnock, who was arrested at an anti-women’s choice protest for blocking access to care, cut his teeth at a union busting law firm defending two of the most hyper-partisan actions in Wisconsin history: Act 10 and the partisan legislative maps that may be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Screnock is receiving more than half of his campaign resources from the Republican Party. Screnock’s radio ad which is running on right-wing talks shows touts his “conservative” credentials and his appointment by Scott Walker.

Screnock’s assertion that he will neutrally interpret the law is also debunked by his support for the John Doe decision to radically rewrite campaign finance law, protecting Scott Walker from prosecution for coordination with dark money groups that was widely believed to be illegal at the time. In addition, Screnock is setting up to have most of his general election campaign bankrolled by the same right-wing dark money groups which coordinated with Scott Walker’s 2012 campaign and have pumped millions into campaigns in support of right-wing Supreme Court justices.

robert_kraig“It is long overdue for a Supreme Court candidate to run openly as a representative of average people against the big corporate interests which dominate Wisconsin government and the current Supreme Court. That is why Citizen Action is proud to endorse Tim Burns for State Supreme Court,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

“The deceitful playbook of right-wing judges is to claim to be neutral while nullifying laws and radically rewriting our Constitution for the benefit of big corporate interests. For two decades Wisconsin Supreme Court elections have been dominated by a series of big money candidates who have grossly misled the public about their partisan and ideological agendas. In this toxic judicial environment, Tim Burns is a breath of fresh air.”

****

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is Proud to be a Union Employer, OPEIU Local 9, AFL-CIO, citizenactionwi.org

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Walker Shift on Health Care Not Enough

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 24 January 2018
in Wisconsin

walker-healthplan-2015Will not undo damage from years of sabotage says non-partisan healthcare group. Opening BadgerCare as a public option, and other reforms, are needed to make coverage affordable.


STATEWIDE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its preliminary response on Monday to the health care proposals Governor Scott Walker will unveil Wednesday in his State of the State Address.

Walker’s sudden interest in addressing the health insurance affordability crisis will not undo the damage his 7 years of sabotage has done, let alone make coverage affordable for most Wisconsinites. In addition, Walker’s proposal on pre-existing condition exclusions would still leave many vulnerable to life-threatening insurance discrimination.

healthcare-rates-gbWhile Walker’s admission that state government has a role to play in making health care affordable is a small step forward, his proposed policies pale in comparison to the scale of the problem and do not make up for the damage done by his ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to research released by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, premiums and deductibles have increased by a combined 209% in Wisconsin since 2000, and far more in some regions.

The centerpiece of Walker’s proposal, which will be unveiled in his State of the State Address on Wednesday, is a reinsurance plan which pays public money to health insurance companies for high-cost patients. Walker’s plan to give more public subsidies to insurance companies impacts very few Wisconsinites who are struggling to afford health coverage, and would result in only a moderate impact on affordability.

Reinsurance will not reduce the premiums of 83% of the Wisconsinites who buy health coverage through the ACA marketplace and receive tax subsidies. It will not effect deductibles or copays and will not help small businesses. Although it will modestly help the 17% of enrollees who make too much money to be eligible to federal tax credits, it will according to national research lower premiums only by an average of 4%. According to Citizen Action Wisconsin research, premiums increased by over 50% statewide from 2017-2018 and by even more in some areas of the state.

There are a number of far more effective policy changes that would make health coverage much more affordable if we deployed the full power of state government.

  1. Opening BadgerCare to everyone in Wisconsin as a public option would, at no cost to the state, reduce premiums and deductibles by an average of 24%. It would also help people who buy insurance on their own and small businesses, most of whom cannot afford to provide coverage to their employees.

  2. Reversing Walker’s decision to turn down the Medicaid expansion money in the ACA could reduce premiums by about 7%.

  3. Reversing the Walker Administration's decision to allow the sale of substandard plans in Wisconsin could reduce premiums by as much as 10%.

Walker’s new interest in protecting people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurance companies is grossly inadequate. His proposal would allow insurance companies to trample upon the rights of anyone who’s had a gap in coverage, and does next to nothing to prevent people with serious health conditions from being priced out of coverage.

Walker’s sudden reversal does not go nearly far enough to the reverse the damage he has done through his ceaseless efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has continuously documented, the Walker Administration has sought to sabotage the ACA by encouraging healthy people to buy substandard policies outside of the market, refusing to enact robust rate review. turning down Medicaid expansion, hamstringing health care navigators, rubber stamping health insurance industry mega mergers, and seeking waivers that would allow insurance companies to take larger profits. Taken together the Walker Administration has aided and abetted the ongoing effort of the national for-profit insurance companies to continue to insure healthy people and find ways to avoid covering people with pre-existing health conditions.

“It is amazing that the best Walker can come up with to address skyrocketing health care costs is more public subsidies for insurance companies. Walker’s refusal to use the power of state government to guarantee affordable health care makes it impossible for him to meaningfully address the affordability crisis,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Insurance and pharmaceutical corporations are not in the business of securing affordable health care; they are driven by profit imperatives dictated by Wall Street. That’s why insurance companies will deny coverage to sick people and pharmaceutical corporations will price gouge if we let them. It is a simple truth that only “we the people,” through the agency of our own democratic government, can guarantee health care to everyone in Wisconsin.”

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Tuesday's Vote Swing Shows Healthcare Professionals Engaged in Elections

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 19 January 2018
in Wisconsin

healthcareHealthcare professionals see elections as a necessary part of their work.


STATEWIDE - Healthcare professionals are getting involved in the 2018 Wisconsin elections. “I’m tired of the attacks on BadgerCare and I’m tired of the government not putting any regulations on pharmaceutical companies jacking up prices,” said Lynn Carey, a retired nurse who helped in Dennis Degenhardt’s race in Assembly District 58, “I volunteered for Dennis because of his stance on healthcare.” The seat swung 25% in the direction of the Democrat candidate.

Dawn Garcia, a healthcare consultant, volunteered for Patty Schachtner in her Senate District 10 win. Senate District 10 is a traditionally Republican district, but Schachtner won on the message of fully expanding BadgerCare and increasing mental health resources. Garcia state, “I think healthcare professionals are realizing that they have the power and responsibility to change the US healthcare system, and part of that is getting involved in elections.”

Garcia and Carey are part of Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s organizing co-ops network forming across the state, including the Western Wisconsin Co-op which includes Senate District 10 and Healthcare for All co-op in Southeast Wisconsin and which is made up of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

“We are only just beginning,” said Carey. The group is putting on a “Healthcare Jeopardy” governor candidate forum on Saturday, January 27 at 9:30am at MATC Milwaukee. They expect for the room to be full of newly politically-engaged healthcare professionals looking to get involved.

In addition to the health professionals involved, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Western and North Central Wisconsin Organizing Co-ops members also volunteered the Senate District 10 election.

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WEDC’s Poor Accountability Record Makes Foxconn a Scandal Waiting to Happen

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 September 2017
in Wisconsin

walker-terry-gou-foxconnIndependent analysis reveals 14,000 jobs deficit for existing corporate tax credits and loans is greater than the direct job creation claim for the Foxconn deal. A full 60% of WEDC-supported corporations have failed to meet job creation goals.


STATEWIDE - On a media call Monday, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, State Rep. Amanda Stuck, and State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff released a new analysis of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) data showing that the troubled economic development agency has an extremely poor record of holding corporate recipients accountable for their jobs promises. The analysis, which comes from the agency’s own self-published data, provides additional evidence that WEDC is completely unqualified to manage the gigantic Foxconn deal, which would be by far the largest job creation tax credit program ever issued by an American state. Audio of the call can be found here.

The Citizen Action of Wisconsin analysis examines job creation tax credits issued by WEDC three years ago and longer to allow time for corporate recipients to execute the hiring plans they submitted to WEDC. The analysis finds a large gap between “Actual Job Creation” (the jobs companies actually reported creating) and “Planned Job Creation” (the jobs that were promised in return for tax credits).

Key Findings

  • Of the 337 WEDC awardees with established job creation goals at least 3 years old, 60% (203 awardees) failed to meet their goals. (company list available on our website)

  • Of the 203 awardees that have not met their job creation promises, the difference between their actual job creation as reported by WEDC and their goals are 14,744 jobs. This means the WEDC job creation gap is larger than the total number of direct jobs being proposed by Foxconn in the best case scenarios (13,000 jobs).

  • The numbers would be even worse if WEDC kept net job creation numbers, because it is well documented that many WEDC recipients have outsourced other jobs while taking state tax credits.

  • WEDC has a very poor record of taking back tax credits when corporate recipients fail to fulfill their job creation promises. WEDC has only sought to claw back $9.9 million from 24 companies, less than 12% of companies who have not met their job creation goals after 3 years. WEDC does not report how much of this money has been successfully recovered.

  • The 203 companies that still have not hit their jobs goal in at least 3 years have already received $94.8 million in verified tax credits from WEDC, with another $158 million awarded but not yet dispersed.

“The Walker Administration's abysmal record of holding corporations accountable for their job creation promises makes the Foxconn deal a scandal waiting to happen,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Any Senator or Representative that is thinking of voting for the Foxconn deal this week should think long and hard about whether they want to be held accountable for potentially the biggest economic scandal in Wisconsin history.”

As both data sets used in this analysis are self-reported by WEDC itself, they indicate the best-case scenario for job creation. The Legislative Audit Bureau found in May that all of WEDC’s job creation claims should be treated as suspect because the agency has failed to implement basic verification procedures. Given the continued refusal to implement basic accountability procedures, it is highly likely that WEDC’s performance record is much worse. The Legislative Audit Bureau concluded that WEDC does “not contractually require grant and loan recipients to submit information sufficiently detailed to allow it to determine the extent to which jobs were actually created or retained.” In addition, the Audit Bureau found that “WEDC did not collect sufficiently detailed information from tax credit recipients about their existing employees. Collecting such information will help WEDC determine in future years the extent to which recipients actually created or retained contractually required jobs. WEDC also did not comply with statutes because it did not annually verify jobs-related information submitted by recipients on the extent to which contractually required results were achieved.”

“Given WEDC’s record of scandal, the Foxconn deal does not make sense even if you believe in extreme corporate welfare,”said State Representative Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee).

“I have been told by WEDC when trying to help my constituents that the agency has no way of verifying with the Department of Revenue which companies have claimed job creation tax credits or how much they’ve recovered from those that don’t follow through on their commitments,” said State Representative Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton). “We have no guarantees that we will get the public’s money back from Foxconn if they do not follow through on their promises. I want to know that we have a system in place to protect our state.”

TABLE 1: Select companies receiving WEDC awards 3 years ago or more

WEDC Award Recipient


Kohl's Corporation

Was awarded $62.5 million in 7/12 to create 3,000 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 473 jobs and received $18.3 million. Company outsourced 67 employees to India in 12/13.

Kestrel Aircraft Company, Inc.

Was awarded $20 million in credits and loans in 1/12 to create 1,265 jobs according to WEDC’s tracking. Currently listed as having allegedly created 45 jobs and received $717,500 in verified credits. Company announced in 10/16 they will not create the facility.

Plexus Corp

Was awarded $2 million in 8/11 and $15 million in 6/12 to create 350 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 43 jobs and received $8.9 million in combined verified credits. In 7/12 the company announced layoffs of 116 workers and moved their operations overseas.

Laserwords U.S. Inc.

Was awarded $375,000 in 12/13 to create 286 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 42 jobs and received $51,168 in verified credits. In June 2017 was certified as having outsourced 48 out of 55 jobs to Mexico

Exodus Machines Incorporated

Was awarded $1.1 million in loans in 10/12 to create 250 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 35 jobs. In 9/16 the company was certified as having outsourced 20 jobs.

Hampton Products International

Was awarded $420,000 in 9/12 to create 140 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 3 jobs. In 4/2015 was certified as having 29 jobs outsourced

W.W. Grainger, Inc.

Was awarded $500,000 in 7/11 to create 130 jobs. Currently listed as having created 0 jobs and received $50,000 in verified credits. In 8/15 the company was certified as having outsourced jobs to Panama

Green Box NA Green Bay, LLC

Was awarded $1.1 million in loans and $95,000 in grants to create 116 jobs. WEDC’s records show it as having created 41 jobs in one record and 64 jobs in another record. The company owner was investigated in 2016 for defrauding financial institutions.

Oneida Seven Generations Corp.

Was awarded $2 million in loans to create 22 jobs. Currently listed as having created 0 jobs. The company was listed as in default and WEDC sought to recover $1.99 million in 9/14, to date it is not clear how much WEDC has recovered.

Novation Companies, Inc.

Was awarded $750,000 to create 88 jobs. Currently listed as having created 68 jobs. The company was revealed to have not been located in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee where WEDC listed them, and was actually purchased by another company after layoffs.

 

The full analysis can be viewed here

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Deliberate Sabotage Threatens Health Coverage

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 28 March 2017
in Wisconsin

americanhealthcareactWith repeal efforts in Washington on hold for now, the biggest immediate threat to affordable health coverage may be sabotage by the Trump Administration, Congress, and states like Wisconsin.


STATEWIDE - In the aftermath of the implosion of the Affordable Care Act replacement plan late Friday afternoon, the biggest immediate threat to affordable health coverage may be deliberate sabotage by the Trump Administration, Congress, and states like Wisconsin where conservative politicians are bitterly opposed to the health care law. With the legislative vehicle for radical restructuring the American health care system closed for the time being, State Innovations Waivers with states like Wisconsin may become the new method for achieving the goals of repeal.

After House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled his replacement bill on Friday President Donald Trump said: “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode. . . . It is exploding now.” But the Congressional Budget Office and independent researchers conclude that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as currently constituted will be stable for years to come. This assumes that the Trump Administration does not use its substantial administrative power to undermine the health care law.

The willingness of conservative politicians to play politics with the health coverage of the American people has been in evidence since the original passage of the ACA. As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has continuously documented, the Walker Administration has sought to sabotage the ACA by encouraging healthy people to buy substandard policies outside of the market; refusing to enact robust rate review; turning down Medicaid expansion; hamstringing health care navigators, rubber stamping health insurance industry mega mergers, and seeking waivers that would allow insurance companies to take larger profits. Taken together the Walker Administration has aided and abetted the on-going effort of the national for-profit insurance companies to continue to insure healthy people and find ways to avoid people with pre-existing health conditions.

The conservative majority in Congress has also played a major role in sabotaging the ACA. For example, they dramatically cut risk adjustment payments to insurance companies who insure more people with health conditions. This hit insurers that were doing the right thing with huge unexpected costs, driving many out of the the ACA marketplace and many new health care Co-ops out of business.

Before the failure of the latest legislative attack on the ACA last week, there were already indications of an intent to sabotage the health care law by not enforcing the individual mandate, pulling public promotion in the final weeks of open enrollment, not defending against a Congressional lawsuit that could pull tax subsidies from moderate income Americans, allowing substandard health insurance policies to be sold, and by cooperating with with states like Wisconsin that want to undermine the law. Trump’s selection of the vehemently ideological Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary is also evidence of an intent to disrupt the ACA. Major media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico are now reporting that the Trump Administration may double down on sabotaging the health care law.

If the Trump Administration adopts sabotage as the next front in it’s attack on the Affordable Care Act, the biggest opportunity for radically changing the health care law may be State Innovation Waivers which under the ACA can be negotiated starting this year. These waivers permit states to submit plans to dramatically restructure health coverage. The Walker Administration would be an ideal partner for Secretary Price to develop a State Innovation Waiver which undermined the purpose of the ACA.

With conservatives in charge of the government they have a solemn moral obligation to uphold the laws of the land and to protect the welfare of the American people. It is stunning that conservative politicians are so bent on getting their way that they are willing to play politics with the lives of their own constituents by throwing sand into the gears of the American health care system. The right of every American to have quality affordable health coverage ought not to be a partisan issue. Now that the American people have resoundingly rejected their disastrous replacement plan, it is time for conservatives to take on the responsibility of actually governing by working with Democrats to move beyond the divisive health care battle and improving and building on the Affordable Care Act.

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Trump-Ryan Care Suffers Stunning Defeat

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 25 March 2017
in Wisconsin

paul-ryan-sadMILWAUKEE - It was one of the greatest victories for American democracy in years when Donald Trump and Paul Ryan were forced to pull their dangerous health care replacement bill just minutes before the scheduled vote.

Against all odds, and without power in Washington, average citizens stopped Trump and Ryan dead in their tracks!

A few short months ago, pundits thought that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act was a foregone conclusion. If it was not for the unprecedented democratic resistance in Wisconsin and across the country, they would have been right.

Right-wing talk show hosts are already spinning that the crash and burn of Trump-Ryan Care had nothing to do with grassroots protests. But it is well known the Republican leadership was trying to rush the bill through because they were afraid of coming home to face their own constituents during the next Congressional recess.

While this victory should renew our faith in the potential of American democracy, we need to understand that we won a major battle, but have not yet won the war.

I am proud to say that Citizen Action of Wisconsin is leading the charge against the unthinkably cruel attack on health care rights. We turned up the pressure on House Republicans this week by holding 10 major organizing actions across Wisconsin.

This is far from over. We must gather our energies for the next stage of the fight. We need to keep on fighting until we have established health care as a fundamental right in America--once and for all.

******

We need your help. We can continue to organize a powerful opposition if we have the resources.

Make an express donation to fund this effort by clicking here.

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New $0 Deductible Health Plans Introduced

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 30 September 2016
in Wisconsin

healthcareNew health insurance plans offer relief from runaway pharmaceutical prices. Wisconsin health consumers will save over $209 million.


WISCONSIN - At news conferences in four cities yesterday Citizen Action of Wisconsin announced that for 2017 some major insurance carriers in Wisconsin will be offering new health plans designed by the federal government to provide immediate relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices and other medical costs. The announcement took place in Appleton, Wausau, Milwaukee, and Madison.

Deductibles jumped 40% this year in Wisconsin, yet the Walker Administration has refused to take any meaningful steps to address high medical prices. To fill the gap, advocates and state legislators took matters into their own hands by directly lobbying Wisconsin health insurance companies to adopt new Federal plans designed to combat high deductibles.

The savings generated because of the introduction of these new plans are dramatic. The average health consumer purchasing insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace stands to save $1,462 Rx deductibles and $3,482 on other high value medical services. Overall Citizen Action of Wisconsin estimates the new plans will save Wisconsin health consumers over $209 million per year in lower deductibles.

At the Capitol news conference Senator Jon Erpenbach and Representative Melissa Sargent represented Democratic legislators who joined Citizen Action in asking Wisconsin health insurers to offer “Low Out-of- Pocket” plans.

These new health plans will have the following common features:

  • $0 deductibles for prescription drugs (generic, brand name and specialty)

  • $0 deductible for Primary Care Visits to Treat an Injury or Illness

  • $0 deductible for Specialist Visits

  • $0 deductible for Mental/Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Outpatient

  • Manageable co-pays that do not differ company to company.

Four companies have so far confirmed to Citizen Action their intention to introduce ”Low Out-of-Pocket” health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace for 2017.

  1. Molina Healthcare

  2. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative

  3. Group Health Cooperative of South Central WI

  4. Network Health

“The introduction of new cost saving health plans in Wisconsin shows it is possible to use the tools provided by the health care reform law to make tangible progress on medical and prescription drug affordability,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Even more progress on skyrocketing health care costs would be possible if Governor Walker and conservatives in the State Legislature would cease their efforts to sabotage health reform, and join health advocates in working to guaranteed quality affordable health care in Wisconsin.”

Chart:

Average Current 2016 Deductibles by County (reduced to $0 for some services in “Low Out of Pocket” Health Plans)

Counties With Plans

Average Rx Deductible*

Average Medical Deductible*

42 County Average**

$1,462/year

$3,482/year

Brown County

$1,464

$3,422

Dane County

$634

$3,311

Kenosha County

$1,480

$3,580

Manitowoc County

$1,464

$3,422

Marathon County

$1,284

$3,457

Milwaukee County

$1,952

$3,702

Oneida County

$1,284

$3,457

Outagamie County

$1,781

$3,521

Racine County

$1,952

$3,702

Rock County

$618

$3,266

Shawano County

$1,346

$3,363

Sheboygan County

$1,464

$3,422

Waukesha County

$1,562

$3,404

Winnebago County

$2,023

$3,523

Wood County

$1,284

$3,457

* - Average deductible based on all silver plans available in county 2016 individual market without cost sharing

** - 42 county weighted average shows what the average resident in these 42 counties that will feature Low Out-of-Pocket health plans currently see for deductibles. Weighted by total enrollment.

More information on the features of the new health plans, and on savings in each Wisconsin County, can be found here.

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Ron Johnson Senate Hearing Will Showcase Sabotage of Affordable Health Care

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Thursday, 15 September 2016
in Wisconsin

ron-johnsonWitnesses include Walker Administration insurance bureaucrat who is part of efforts to undermine access to affordable health care in Wisconsin.


WASHINGTON, DC - This morning Senator Ron Johnson, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on the state of health insurance markets. Observers of health policy expect the hearing to try and build support for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Senator Johnson, an arch opponent of guaranteed affordable health care, is expected to use the hearing to advance his desire to return to the days when insurance companies profited through discrimination based on preexisting conditions, age, and gender. Johnson will likely claim that big for profit insurance companies pulling out of ACA marketplaces is a reason to repeal health care reform, rather than for holding those highly profitable corporations accountable. At least one health insurance company is pulling out in retaliation for the Obama Administration enforcement of the nation’s antitrust laws.

One of the challenges in implementing the ACA continues to be conservative state officials who are willing to use their power to undermine access to affordable health care for their own constituents. These actions include rejecting coverage for low income residents and enabling for profit insurance companies to continue to profit by selling policies to healthy people and avoiding those with health conditions.

The first witness on Sen. Johnson’s hearing notice is Wisconsin Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske, who had been one of the leaders in Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to sabotage the health care reform law.

The record of actions the Walker Administration is long and troubling. Here is a sampling:

  • The Walker Administration made Wisconsin the only state in the Great Lakes region to reject enhanced Medicaid dollars, kicking 77,000 people off the state’s BadgerCare program. New research shows that states like Wisconsin who refused Medicaid dollars forced more people with health conditions onto the ACA marketplace, increasing premiums by about 7%.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance commissioner sought a waiver from the rule that health insurance companies spend at least 80% of premiums on medical care, the so called 80/20 rule.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner allowed health insurance corporations to game the system by allowing the continued sale of substandard lemon plans, which according to research by Milliman, Academy of Actuaries, and Rand Corporation, increase ACA marketplace premiums by up to 10% by allowing insurance companies to continue to cherry pick healthier customers. There are as many as 45,000 Wisconsinites on these so-called transitional plans. These skimpy plans also are dangerous for customers who face serious medical conditions.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance commissioner has been extremely lax on health insurance rate review, failing to find a single health insurance industry rate request to be excessive in 5 years. The Walker Administration has been an advocate of “file and use,” strongly opposing legislation that would require the health insurance corporations to prove rate increases are justified. More vigorous rate review has reduced premiums in other states.

  • The Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner put unnecessary and burdensome restrictions on health insurance navigators not required by federal law, of the kind that were thrown out by a federal court in Missouri. This likely raised premiums by reducing enrollment in ACA marketplace plans.

It is deeply troubling that conservative politicians like Senator Johnson see the continued efforts of the big health insurance corporations to deny coverage to people with health conditions as an opportunity to undermine health reform. Now that big insurance is working actively to sabotage a system designed to guarantee them customers, it is long overdue that we return to the idea of robust public option. A public option would hold big health insurance accountable by giving health consumers a choice and taking away their leverage to abandon whole parts of the country just to jack up their already swelling profit margins.

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Wisconsin Manufacturing Wages Declining

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Thursday, 01 September 2016
in Wisconsin

manufacturingGreen Bay Manufacturing Wages Down by $2,197, Appleton by $1,971. Janesville-Beloit area leads march to the bottom with $6,555 decline since 2015.


STATEWIDE - Leading into Labor Day 2016, Citizen Action of Wisconsin released data today which shows dramatically declining wages for Wisconsin manufacturing workers in every metro area.

Citizen Action was joined on a media call this morning by State Senator Dave Hansen, WI AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale, State Representative LaTanya Johnson, and State Representative Evan Goyke. (audio recording here).

Earlier this week, Citizen Action of Wisconsin showed that the outsourcing Wisconsin jobs is continuing at an alarming rate.

Another impact of rigged global trade and state economic development programs shown dramatically in the data released today is shrinking wages for jobs that remain in Wisconsin.

“Labor Day weekend is a good time to focus on the fact that when Wisconsin workers are forced to compete with low wage countries, where the right to form unions is brutally suppressed, the jobs that stay here pay less and less,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin looked at the latest federal data, and found a startling decline in manufacturing wages in every Wisconsin metro area. Real wages (adjusted for inflation) are going down for manufacturing workers in every Wisconsin metro area. On average, annual wages declined $1,430 between 2010 and 2015.

Annual Average Wages for Manufacturing/Production Workers in Major Wisconsin Metropolitan Areas

Metro

2010

2015

Change since 2015

Wisconsin, Statewide

$37,880

$36,450

-$1,430

Appleton

$39,993

$38,022

-$1,971

Eau Claire

$34,688

$33,301

-$1,387

Fond du Lac

$34,960

$34,840

-$120

Green Bay

$38,452

$36,254

-$2,197

Janesville-Beloit

$41,853

$35,298

-$6,555

La Crosse-Onalaska

$36,275

$35,339

-$936

Madison

$38,089

$35,589

-$2,500

Milwaukee-Waukesha

$39,517

$38,480

-$1,037

Oshkosh-Neenah

$40,719

$37,378

-$3,341

Racine

$37,590

$35,880

-$1,710

Sheboygan

$39,472

$38,355

-$1,117

Wausau

$38,044

$35,693

-$2,351

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, inflation adjusted annual average wages in 2015 dollars)

“Declining wages may be good for multinational corporations who have no loyalty to any country, but they are a disaster for Wisconsin’s economy,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Declining wages damage small business because workers have less to spend at the local grocery store, supper club, coffee shop, and dry cleaner. The result is less employment, and a further drag on local economies.”

"People are feeling like they have less in their pockets, and this data proves they are right," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. “When families are not able to put that kind of money into their pocket, the whole community suffers. Smaller paychecks not only impact the immediate family but the entire local economy."

"What would you do with an extra $1,034? That's the difference in Milwaukee for a manufacturing worker's wages from 2010 to now," said State Representative Evan Goyke. “Think of the places in your community you would spend that money, and the economic impact of taking that money out of the local economy.”

“We're seeing the state lead the way in a bad way, leading at having the largest drop in the middle class of all states, and the worst place to raise an African American child," said State Representative LaTonya Johnson. "We've seen communities lose manufacturing jobs, and go from middle class economics to places where families are forced to do without the basics.”

"We in the Legislature can and should make sure that the hard earned tax dollars of Wisconsin workers don't get funneled to companies that turn around and outsource Wisconsin jobs," said Senator Dave Hansen. "The bill we brought forth last session would ban companies that outsource jobs from receiving any state tax break, loan or grant for 5 years."

This data also directly challenges Governor Walker’s constant assertion that a co-called “skills gap” is the cause of Wisconsin’s economic woes. If manufacturers were really having problems finding skilled manufacturing workers, they would be raising wages, not lowering them.

The decline is further proof we need to stop rigging the economy by scrapping bad trade deals which stack the deck against workers and economic development policies that reward companies engaged in outsourcing and lowering the wages of their workers. Wisconsin needs bold new strategies to re-rig the economy in favor of workers.

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WEDC Misrepresentation of Jobs Impact in Sherman Park

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Tuesday, 23 August 2016
in Wisconsin

sherman-park-youthWEDC claimed to create 483 jobs in the economically depressed Sherman Park neighborhood, but all were actually in the suburbs. Neighborhoods in economic distress need job creation strategies at the scale of the problem.


MILWAUKEE - At a news event in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park Neighborhood today elected officials and community leaders spoke out about revelations that the jobs agency created by Governor Walker, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), misrepresented its impact on jobs in the area.

Speakers at the event included elected officials such as State Representative LaTonya Johnson, State Representative Evan Goyke, State Representative David Bowen, and Alderman Chevy Johnson. The event also included community leaders such as Reverend Willie Brisco, President of WISDOM, and Martha De La Rosa, Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin revealed late last week that WEDC claimed only to create 483 jobs in the economically depressed Sherman Park neighborhood, the scene of civil unrest ten days ago. However, Citizen Action research discovered that the small number of jobs claimed by the WEDC were not created in Sherman Park, but in exurbs like Hartland.

WEDC CEO David Hogan responded to Citizen Action’s research today, but admits that WEDC’s impact map inaccurately attributed jobs to Sherman Park that were created in other areas such as western Waukesha County. Hogan said in his response: “When the physical address data cannot be precisely plotted, such as when a P.O. Box is provided, the system generates an approximate location. That is what happened with the companies identified by Citizen Action.” This statement constitutes an admission that WEDC does not even have accurate records of where its tax credits, loans, and grants are supposedly creating jobs. In one case the jobs were created 25 miles to the west in Harland. The response suggests that this was only a problem with an impact map on the website, but in fact WEDC’s written profile of what jobs were supposedly created in Assembly District 18 contains the same errors.

The Sherman Park neighborhood and other communities in Milwaukee’s urban core have borne the brunt of the outsourcing and deindustrialization that has taken place since the 1970s. WEDC actually claims to have created more jobs in up scale Waukesha County than in Milwaukee County, despite the much greater need for expanded opportunity.

WEDC’s inability to track the locations of the jobs it claims to create is a symptom of a bankrupt economic strategy. It is clear that Sherman Park and other economically devastated areas like it have been abandoned by Governor Walker’s failed economic policies. Now that the dust has settled in Sherman Park, we need public interventions at the scale necessary to truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state.

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We Need to Get Serious About Equal Economic Opportunity in Milwaukee

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 18 August 2016
in Wisconsin

milw-riot-2016MILWAUKEE - Over the weekend, another young black man lost his life and civil unrest exploded in MIlwaukee.

Our hearts go out to all the residents of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood who have experienced this weekend’s civil unrest, to the family of the young man who lost his life, and to the peace officers who have put their lives on the line to protect public safety. As public order is restored, it is important we take stock of what happened, and what we have to do together to create a Wisconsin where everyone has an equal chance to live a fulfilling life.

Although the violence and property destruction seemed spontaneous to outsiders, for many African American residents it was a predictable outpouring of frustration flowing from unbearable racial inequality and exclusion. Shocking statistics support this, as the Milwaukee metro area has for many years consistently ranked among the worst in the country for African Americans across a variety of indicators including, segregation, incarceration rates, black male nonemployment, child poverty, and many others.

African Americans in Milwaukee, who came during the Great Migration to work and work hard and claim their piece of the American Dream, where drawn by the plentiful opportunities to work in union manufacturing jobs. They have borne the brunt of deindustrialization since the late 1970s. According to the UWM Center for Economic Development, the percentage of African Americans working in manufacturing declined from 54.3% in 1970 to 14.7% in 2009.

Many leaders in the Milwaukee area seem to see this as a natural phenomenon beyond our control. But the economy is not a natural disaster or an extreme weather event beyond our agency to influence, it is human made. What has been lacking in Milwaukee is the courage and vision to fight for solutions up to the scale of the problem. Once the dust is settled in Sherman Park, the question will be which public officials, which community leaders, which corporate leaders are willing to stand up and fight for public interventions at the scale necessary to end Wisconsin’s system of economic apartheid and truly guarantee full opportunity for everyone in our great state. This means striving to create an economy where everyone who wants a good jobs can find one near their local community.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our over 12,000 members in the Milwaukee area look forward to continuing to work with everyone in the community who wants to work toward economic and social transformation.

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Walker’s WEDC Caught Red-Handed

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Monday, 25 July 2016
in Wisconsin

out_sourced_wedcCitizen Action sounded the alarm two years ago on how Walker’s scandal plagued WEDC doles out public money. Walker promised to require corporations taking our job creation dollars to give 30 days notice of any planned outsourcing or downsizing. Now we find they're not even doing that!


MILWAUKEE - When Citizen Action sounded the alarm two years ago that Walker’s scandal plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) doles out public money to corporations engaged in outsourcing jobs, they came up with a non-solution.

Walker’s WEDC promised to require corporations taking our job creation dollars to give 30 days notice of any planned outsourcing or downsizing.

Now, Citizen Action has discovered that Walker is not even doing that! When we filed an open records request WEDC lawyers found ZERO outsourcing notifications--this despite a series of corporations caught red-handed in recent months outsourcing jobs when taking money from WEDC.

Outsourcing can be the issue that turns the 2016 election in our favor, and even forces Scott Walker not to seek re-election, but only if we have the resources to tell voters about it.

If you agree, please make an emergency contribution to Citizen Action’s outsourcing election fund.

Outsourcing is the sleeping giant in the 2016 election because it is the smoking gun of the rigged economy.

The outright support for large corporations outsourcing Wisconsin jobs is political dynamite. The reason Walker’s jobs agency turns a blind eye to outsourcing is that they support it!

Citizen Action played a leading role in forcing votes on bills to cut off public loans, grants, and tax credits to corporations engaged in outsourcing. Shockingly, every Republican legislator voted wrong on the issue!

Wisconsin voters should be outraged about their senators and representatives supporting the outsourcing of their jobs, but only if we have the resources to communicate with them about it during the election.

If you agree, please send an emergency contribution to Citizen Action’s outsourcing election fund.

Sincerely,

Robert Kraig

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Citizen Action Endorses Judge Joe Donald for State Supreme Court

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 21 January 2016
in Wisconsin

Joe DonaldMILWAUKEE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide membership organization with over 38,000 members, announced today its endorsement of Judge Joe Donald for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Judge Joe Donald is an extremely experienced jurist. With nearly 20 years presiding over civil and criminal court cases he is by far the most qualified candidate. Throughout the legal community, Judge Donald is highly respected for his command of the law, his fairness, and his common sense approach. Judge Donald will deliver justice for everyone in Wisconsin.

At a time when special interest dominance is eroding public confidence in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, it is critically important that we elect judges who make independent judgments based on the merits of each case. The specter of Supreme Court judges failing to recuse themselves from cases involving parties who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their behalf has sullied the reputation of Wisconsin’s highest court. That is why Citizen Action of Wisconsin believes we need a Supreme Court Justice like Joe Donald, whose long record of judicial independence is beyond reproach.

Judge Joe Donald is a leader in improving and modernizing our criminal justice system. Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate for African Americans in America. Judge Donald has been a leader in the creation and development judicial solutions like drug treatment courts, which reduce the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders and work to address the root causes of drug addiction and poverty. We need this kind of common sense innovation to reduce crime and improve lives at our highest court.

The election of Judge Joe Donald would also be a historic milestone. Judge Donald would be the first African American elected to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court (Former Justice Louis Butler was appointed).

“On behalf of our 38,000 members in every corner of the state, we are proud to recommend Judge Joe Donald for Wisconsin Supreme Court,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Judge Donald will work to secure justice for everyone in Wisconsin, not just well connected special interests and big campaign contributors. Based on his proven record of judicial integrity, innovation, and impartiality, Judge Donald has earned a place on Wisconsin’s highest court.”

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2016 Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking Released

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Monday, 21 December 2015
in Wisconsin

healthcare-familyReport finds continuing regional disparities on cost, inflation, and quality. Wisconsin health insurance costs have more than tripled since 2000.


STATEWIDE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its 10th Annual Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking report Monday morning on a statewide media call. A full audio recording of the media call can be downloaded here.

The full report includes 11 charts ranking the cities and regions of Wisconsin on health insurance costs, rate of inflation, and quality, and can be downloaded here.

This year’s report finds wide disparities between higher and lower cost regions of Wisconsin, as well as large differences in the rate of health insurance inflation. There is a 30% variation in the for all types of health insurance for premiums and deductibles between the lowest cost metro area (Madison) and the highest cost area (Milwaukee), which amounts to a difference of $2,221.48 per year for single health coverage.

The magnitude of this gap could have significant economic consequences. The report finds that Wisconsin health insurance premiums for large and medium sized employers have more than tripled since 2000, increasing 216% since the year 2000 statewide, and as much 365% in some areas.

This year’s report also finds significant volatility on in the price for health insurance people buy on their own. There is also a $4,470 gap in annual premiums and deductibles between the highest cost area (Wausau) and the lowest cost (Madison) on the individual market.

The report recommends that policymakers in Madison make controlling health care costs a more central focus. The report notes that making better use of all the tools available under the Affordable Care Act, such as taking enhanced dollars for BadgerCare and implementing more robust health insurance rate review could begin the process of moderating health insurance premiums in Wisconsin. Other reforms which go beyond the Affordable Care Act such as more strictly regulating excessive prescription drug prices and surprise medical bills would also lower consumer costs.

“The striking numbers in this report make it clear that state policymakers need to move beyond the divisive debate over the Affordable Care Act and put a sharp focus on health care costs,” said Robert Kraig, the report lead author and the Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin workers and families will not have full control of their own health care decisions until we get health care costs under control.”

Key Findings: Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking 2016

  • Wisconsin Health Care Hyperinflation is a Long Term Trend. Wisconsin large group health insurance costs (premiums and deductibles) have more than tripled since the year 2000, increasing 216% statewide, with regional rates of inflation varying between a low of 170% in Madison to highs of 365% in Green Bay, 254% in Oshkosh, 247% in Appleton, and 226% in Milwaukee, for benefits packages that is less generous.

  • Southeastern and Central Wisconsin are Highest Cost Areas, Madison is Lower Cost. According to a new composite measure which combines all types of health insurance, Milwaukee, Racine, Wausau, have the highest costs in Wisconsin while Madison has the lowest.

  • Regional Cost Disparities Persist. There continue to be wide cost variations between higher and lower cost areas of the state. The cost variation is even higher in our composite index for all types of health insurance than they are in the large group market. There is a 30% cost variation between the highest cost metro area (Milwaukee) and the lowest cost metro area (Madison), which amounts to a $2,221.48 difference for a single policy each year.

  • Regional Cost Disparities Are Greatest on the Individual Market. Although there are large regional cost variations for all types of insurance, the biggest disparities are in the individual market. The highest cost areas (Wausau, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Marshfield) are an astounding 69% higher than the lowest cost areas (Madison, Appleton, and Janesville/Beloit). This amounts to a gap of $4,470 per year for individual coverage.

  • Disparities within Regions Suggest Underlying Medical Costs are Not the Only Driver of Insurance Costs. Insurers often claim that their prices merely reflect medical costs. However, there are major variations in relative cost within regions for different types of insurance. This suggest that the numbers measure not only underlying medical costs but also distortions in the insurance market. For example, the Fox Valley has above average insurance rates in large group insurance and well below average rates in the individual and small group markets. Wausau has very high costs for large group and individual market insurance, but relatively low costs in small group. Madison is not nearly as low in the small group market as it is for the other types of insurance. Eau Claire is high in all employer-based insurance, but below average on the individual market.

  • Individual Market Costs Increased Substantially Statewide. There was a 28% increase statewide in premiums and deductibles combined from 2015-2016 .

  • Striking Price Volatility on the Individual Market in a Major Policy Concern. Some metro areas had very large increases in cost from 2015 to 2016 while others actually saw reductions. Individual market prices increased by over 69% in Racine, and 60% in Milwaukee, while declining by over 8% in Madison and Janesville/Beloit. This 79% percent spread in inflation rates between Wisconsin cities is a warning sign that insurance rate setting practices may require greater scrutiny.

  • Price Volatility is also a Concern on the Small Group Market. Although not as severe as the individual market, there were significant disparities in the rate of inflation between Wisconsin metro areas for small employers. While Green Bay and the Fox Valley saw greater than 10% increases, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Marshfield saw cost reductions of over 12%.

  • Cost and Quality are not Correlated. As in past reports, the 2016 report finds that there is no clear correlation between quality and health insurance costs, with some of the low cost areas of the state having higher quality insurance plans and some higher costs areas having lower quality plans.

Additional data and 11 ranking charts ranking each metro area in Wisconsin are available in the full report which can be downloaded here.

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New Economic Messaging Webinar Available

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 08 October 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-wedcMILWAUKEE - I am sure you are concerned as I am about the WEDC disaster and more broadly declining economic opportunity in Wisconsin.

I am writing to personally invite you to a special webinar to unveil Citizen Action of Wisconsin's new Economic Opportunity Agenda.

As I wrote recently in a column in the Capital Times: If we focus exclusively on the WEDC train wreck, we miss a more fundamental challenge: the lack of any serious strategy to reverse the ongoing decline of economic opportunity for working families in Wisconsin. The WEDC crackup is an opening to take a step back and consider the scope of Wisconsin’s economic challenges and solutions of the scale needed to put us back on the road to shared prosperity.

In the webinar I will discuss the depth of Wisconsin's economic crisis, and a bold new strategy to challenge the rigging of the economic system and to use our democracy to expand the middle class once again.

I hope you will join me for this critically important conversation. You can join us either by phone or webinar. We will host this event TWICE on Wednesday October 14th, once at noon and again at 6pm. Join whichever you can.

Click here to RSVP or learn more about the Wednesday Oct 14 noon webinar/conference call

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Walker Administration’s Lax Health Insurance Regulation Costly for Wisconsin Consumers

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 01 September 2015
in Wisconsin

healthcare-familyNational data says letting insurers set their own rates has led to the 4th highest insurance premiums in the nation for silver plans, and cost inflation 7% to 9% higher for Wisconsinites. The average premium for a Wisconsin silver plan is $780 more per year than the national average.


STATEWIDE - The Walker’s Administration’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance recently defended Wisconsin’s lax approach to reviewing health insurance rates, but national data refutes their claims.

According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Dan Schwartzer said “letting insurers set their own rates” has led to “minimal” rate increases in Wisconsin.

However, a recent report by the Commonwealth Fund found that Wisconsin had among the highest health insurance rates in the nation on the individual insurance market, and inflation rates that are well above average.

The Commonwealth Fund report found Wisconsin had the 4th highest insurance premiums in the nation for silver plans, the plans that federal government uses to calculate tax credits to make health insurance more affordable. Wisconsin also had inflation rates 9% above the national average for silver plans, and 7% above the national average for all plans on the individual market. The average premium for a Wisconsin silver plan is $780 more per year than the national average.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin has repeatedly pointed to the Walker’ Administration's lax approach to rate review as a factor in high Wisconsin health insurance costs. In June the federal government called on Wisconsin and other states to more carefully scrutinize large rate increases.

States such as Minnesota have reduced health insurance premium increases by implementing more robust rate review.

“The Walker Administration’s refusal to police excessive health insurance rates is a disaster for Wisconsinites struggling to afford rising premiums,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Simply allowing insurance companies to set their own rates violates the intent of the federal health care law. It’s long overdue for the Walker Administration to move beyond its endless efforts to sabotage health care reform, and take advantage of the tools available to hold health insurance companies accountable for unjustified premium hikes.”

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Walker “Bait and Switch” Health Care Plan Would Force Millions Off Health Coverage

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 18 August 2015
in Wisconsin

aca-workingSupposed plan is a thinly veiled excuse to go backwards and to legalize discrimination.


MILWAUKEE - In an issue paper posted late last night and to be formally announced today in a speech in Minnesota, Scott Walker offers up a “bait and switch” health care plan that will immediately force millions Americans off of their health care coverage without providing any viable alternative. Walker’s ceaseless efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fly in the face of the public’s desire to move the discussion beyond repeal to actually improving health care, lowering costs, and saving lives.

Walker’s choice of Minnesota of all places to release his plan to go backwards on health reform is a major miscalculation. Citizen Action of Wisconsin research has shown that health insurance costs for individuals and small businesses are much lower in Minnesota than Wisconsin in part because state leaders there have been working to implement and improve the health care law. Wisconsin’s health premiums are higher in part because of Walker’s efforts to sabotage health reform.

Walker’s supposed plan is so rife with internal contradictions and fuzzy math that it will never become law. It is a campaign document not serious public policy. It repeals all funding for health care reform while promising large new subsidies with no identified source of revenue. If enacted, Walker’s plan would dramatically constrict the freedom of the American people to access affordable coverage and control their own medical decisions.

The low lights of Walker’s Health Plan include:

  • Repeal of the federal guarantee that no American can be denied coverage or charged higher premiums by insurance companies because they have pre-existing medical conditions.

  • Repeal of the federal requirement that insurance companies allow young adults to stay on their parents health policies.

  • Gutting Medicaid health programs for moderate income Americans (like BadgerCare) by block granting federal funds without any indexing for inflation, and limiting required state matching contributions. This will likely result in millions of moderate income Americans losing their affordable health coverage.

  • Repeal income-based tax subsidies which make health coverage affordable for low and middle income Americans. The plan promises new subsidies, but simultaneously repeals the funding. The plan shifts from a progressive and targeted approach to health care subsidies based on the ability to pay to an approach that would if enacted funnel millions of dollars to the wealthy who do not need help to afford coverage.

  • Shifting to a flat age-based subsidy system which will dramatically raise premiums for many Americans who rely on the federal marketplace for their health coverage. For example, 60 year old in Milwaukee, making $20,000 per year, would lose $4,474 per year in tax credits designed to mitigate the cost of their healthcare. Other medical costs would also increase because Walker also repeals caps on out-of-pocket medical costs. See more examples of cost increases for individual health consumers HERE.

  • Legalizing sale of substandard skimpy health plans which leave people vulnerable to bankruptcy and without needed care when they have a major illness.

  • Dramatically increasing health insurance premiums by creating incentives for healthier and younger Americans not to buy insurance until they are already sick, making the insurance risk pool less healthy and more expensive.

“Walker’s supposed plan is not serious health policy. It is a campaign document which provides nothing more than window dressing for a massive roll-back of the freedom to access quality affordable health care,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The American people are tired of the constant efforts to undermine health care reform. It’s time to recognize that the health care law is here to stay. Rather than going backwards, we need to work together to make the law better and lower costs.”

As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has extensively documented, Walker’s efforts to sabotage health care reform in Wisconsin has increased costs both to consumers and government, left tens of thousands of families needlessly without life saving coverage, and saddled consumers with dangerous substandard health insurance plans.

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