Wednesday October 18, 2017

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Proceed with Caution During Foxconn Frenzy

Posted by Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson, State Senator, District 7
Chris Larson (D) is the Wisconsin State Senator from the 7th District in Milwauk
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on Thursday, 27 July 2017
in Wisconsin

trump-walker-foxconn-anncWisconsinites should not blindly put their faith, and money, in this jobs promise. We’ve been deceived by Walker’s rose-tinted glasses before.

MADISON - It is with good reason that Wisconsinites are not yet willing to blindly put their faith, and money, in a feeble jobs promise. We’ve been deceived by Walker’s rose-tinted glasses before.

Since taking office, Walker has left a trail of broken promises. His pattern of deception has resulted in our hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to campaign donors and companies that outsource, as well as some of the biggest tax breaks going to the richest people in the state, some of whom have used tax loopholes to avoid paying any state income tax for years.

Our neighbors care about making sure this is a good deal for everyone in Wisconsin. Any move for Foxconn to locate in Wisconsin must also fit with the spirit of our great state. We look to partner with companies that will respect our state’s shared lands and waters. We should reward companies that pay our neighbors a living wage and treat them fairly. If they expect special treatment, they need to have a long-term commitment to our state so we know they won’t abandon Wisconsin as soon as a new enticement goes on the table from somewhere else.

Wisconsin leaders should not commit to corporate welfare or anything that carves out special exceptions in our laws if it will unfairly hurt local businesses already in our state. Every small-business owner knows: with a billion dollar pinky swear, the devil is always in the details.

Too many people in our state are struggling in low-wage jobs and living in fear that any day the security of health care could be pulled out from under them. They deserve leaders who will be looking out for their future.

We demand fairness, and that’s what we’ll be looking for in this deal.

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Wis Democracy Campaign 'School Voucher $$$'

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
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on Wednesday, 26 July 2017
in Wisconsin

wis-democracy-campaign$8.5 million reasons why State GOP wants to expand school vouchers, financial filings at Walker run Republican Governors Association, and more...

MADISON - While almost all the press coverage on the state budget lately has been about the petty bickering among GOP leaders over transportation, there’s been little attention paid to a relatively united GOP effort to greatly expand school vouchers. We show the money behind this push here.

$8.5M reasons Wisconsin GOP wants to expand school vouchers

In other news, our research staff has been pouring over recent financial filings of special interest electioneering groups. One such group is the Republican Governors Association, now headed by none other than Scott Walker. That may be why some wealthy Wisconsinites decided to fork it over, as we note here:

10 Wisconsin donors give outside electioneering group $1M+

You know why I don’t get depressed by all this big money being tossed around, even when we see it up close and personal every day here?

Because I also see an amazing grassroots movement to do something about this. I bet you didn’t know that Wisconsin is second only to Massachusetts in the number of communities that have voted, by overwhelming margins, that they want to amend the U.S. Constitution to proclaim, once and for all, that corporations aren’t persons and money isn’t speech. It’s been voted on in in 112 communities, and it's passed every single time!

In Door County alone, seven communities have climbed on board just in the last six months, as you’ll see here:

Door County pushes amendment to overturn Citizens United

This is one of the most under-reported stories in the state. You heard it here first!

I hope you’re having a nice summer.


Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

P.S. Please support our urgent work with a tax-deductible gift by clicking here or making and mailing a check to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

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Steps Toward the Future of Health Care

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Tuesday, 25 July 2017
in Wisconsin

health-care-costsSen. Vinehout writes about the introduction of her Badger Health Benefit Authority bill to create a state health marketplace. She shares how Wisconsin can do better for serving all with affordable and accessible health care.

MADISON - An older man contacted me recently with a problem. A visit to the doctor left him with thousands in unpaid bills. Medicare deemed the tests “routine” and not a “medical necessity.” But the gentleman was told, for his occupation, the tests were absolutely necessary.

He was left with a medical bill costing more than his 2017 income.

The top-notch staff at the Department of Health Services (DHS), discovered the man was likely eligible for Medicaid. But the man wasn’t interested.

The constituent relations department within DHS has been a godsend over the years, helping me solve many difficult medical cases. I’m very grateful for their help. I’m sure they saved many lives by connecting people to health coverage. But, if a person doesn’t want state help, there is little they or I can do.

Unless we change our state health care system and the perception of seeking assistance.

What if everyone had affordable health care? If you hadn’t signed up, you could sign up the first time you saw the doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.

Behind the scenes, hospitals and clinics know they’d be paid. If you were eligible for Medicaid, you’d get the benefits. Seamlessly, payers would pay bills, providers would be paid and people would no longer pay any insurance premiums.

You could choose a provider in your area from several options. Your plan would include comprehensive benefits including maternity and mental health coverage.

If you lost your job, you could keep your health coverage. If you took a new job or started your own business, you could keep your health coverage.

Employers no longer would worry about health coverage. Sure, they could offer extra benefits if they wanted, but basic coverage would be disconnected from employment – taking a huge irritation off a company’s plate.

Health care doesn’t have to be so complicated. Other countries have figured out how to solve this problem. And Wisconsin can too.

In fact, ten years ago this summer, Wisconsin actually had a plan on the table to create such a system. Senate Democrats introduced Healthy Wisconsin, a plan written by Senators Erpenbach, Miller and myself. Under our plan, coverage would have cost 14.5% of payroll – split between employers and employees.

This summer, an idea to offer BadgerCare for all attracted attention. I support the plan and see the idea as a first step. Details of the plan are sparse, but it would require the Trump administration to allow a public option in Wisconsin on the federal marketplace

Minnesota’s Governor Dayton introduced a plan to offer MinnesotaCare as a public option. He used the state’s authority and the state’s own health care marketplace, MNsure. He put together a plan that leveraged federal dollars and the state’s large Medicaid pool to add self-employed and small business people. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the cost would be entirely funded by premiums and tax credits.

GOP controlled Legislators didn’t deliver Dayton’s request, but Minnesota is a lot closer to moving to a public option than Wisconsin. Wisconsin needs the flexibility of our own marketplace to explore options that work best for our state. That’s why I recently introduced a bill to create Wisconsin’s own health care marketplace.

Senate Bill 359 and Assembly Bill 445, the companion co-authored by Representative Sargent, creates a unique badger-based approach to a health marketplace. Using innovations to balance high quality, cost control and wide access, Wisconsin can have its own approach.

We can move toward a system that minimizes the everyday hassles of health insurance and eliminates the fear of a loss of coverage just when you need it the most.

Access to affordable, high quality health care is a duty of our society to everyone. Health care for all is a moral responsibility of our people to each other. Finding the best way to pay for and deliver the care should be the topic of discussion. Instead, some public officials propose dropping coverage and cutting state budgets. Harsh talk stigmatizes Medicaid.

Instead, let’s share our vision of what health care for all looks like for each of us. And, meanwhile, support leaders who find ways to work together and take steps toward our mutual vision.

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GOP Health Care Repeal Still Cruel

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
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on Monday, 24 July 2017
in Wisconsin

elderly-crowdThe health care repeal, also known as TrumpCare, will affect every single resident in Wisconsin. So why are some politicians still supporting it?

MADISON - After weeks of overwhelming opposition, Republican politicians are still pushing a cruel health care repeal that increases costs, limits coverage and jeopardizes access to care. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the latest repeal plan would double health care premiums and result in 32 million more uninsured Americans by 2026.

The health care repeal, also known as TrumpCare, will affect every single resident in Wisconsin. So why are some politicians still supporting it?

Gov. Walker and a handful of legislative Republicans have been vocal supporters of the health care repeal effort. Rather than lowering health care costs, they have sided with out-of-state HMOs and pharmaceutical companies whose CEOs profit by gaming the health care system.

The latest version of TrumpCare continues to favor these special interests by cutting taxes for the wealthy, raising out-of-pocket costs on working families and making huge cuts to Medicaid. Even more troubling for Wisconsin families, Republicans have refused to stand up and protect individuals with pre-existing conditions from the uncertainty created by TrumpCare.

Roughly half of all Wisconsin residents have some form of pre-existing health condition. From asthma and diabetes to cancer and heart disease, we all know someone who has been affected by a serious health condition at some point in their life. Through no fault of their own, these individuals could see massive price spikes or lose their coverage if the repeal plan approved by Speaker Paul Ryan moves forward.

These consequences haven’t deterred Republicans and their special interest allies. In fact, Gov. Walker admitted early on that he was open to eliminating protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. His statement shocked and disappointed many families who are already struggling with difficult illnesses and costly treatments.

Rather than siding with big-money special interests, Wisconsin Democrats introduced a series of solutions to protect health care access and lower costs. We believe residents shouldn’t be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition. We believe access to preventive care shouldn’t come with a premium penalty. And we believe that insurance companies shouldn’t be the ones writing their own rules.

As lawmakers consider major health care changes, local residents need to make sure their voices are being heard. Instead of going back to the days when insurance companies could unfairly discriminate against individuals, we should ensure all families have the opportunity to access quality and affordable health care coverage.

Let’s protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, lower costs for seniors and protect affordable access for working families. As one local resident recently told me: “We all need medical care at some point in life, so let’s take care of one another.”

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Talk Is All Health Care at the Stockholm Art Fair

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 19 July 2017
in Wisconsin

art-fairSenator Vinehout shares what she learned at the Stockholm Art Fair about dwindling health care options in Western Wisconsin.

STOCKHOLM, WI - “My father-in-law is losing his health insurance,” Pam told me. She stopped to chat as we perused the booths at the Stockholm Art Fair.

Stockholm, population 66, has one of the best art fairs in western Wisconsin. Judging by the license plates, the fair is high on the list for Minnesotans too.

The 44th annual fair was held on the grounds of the city park overlooking Lake Pepin, the widest spot in the Mississippi River. Over 100 artists were eager to share their health care stories and sell their creations. There were few bugs. Weather was warm, but not too hot. Colors were everywhere.

The air smelled of fresh roasted nuts, gyro meat and kettle corn. Organic beef, wood-fired locally sourced pizza and maple ice cream kept hunger at bay.

Talented regional musicians kept folks entertained as neighbors sat on straw bales under a tent. Many shared treasures and pointed out favorite artists.

Under the surface, though, folks worried. My conversations were almost exclusively about health care.

Pam told me how a local health plan, La Crosse-based Health Tradition is quitting the federal marketplace next year. Others shared how loved ones recently received letters from Anthem or Health Tradition dropping coverage next year.

Recently, reported roughly 23,000 will be affected by the pull out of Anthem and Health Tradition. Insurers blame the “uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance including cost sharing reduction subsidies.” This statement translates into: as Congress debates cutting help to people who need it, companies realize they may not have the customers to make a plan work.

In the insurance world, the larger the pool, the lower the risk. But if folks don’t have help buying insurance and younger people get cheaper plans, the folks that are left – sicker and older – end up with more expensive plans and, maybe, none at all.

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. But it was carefully balanced to share the risk – the basic element of keeping health care affordable for all.

Many artists and musicians are self-employed. The Affordable Care Act and created a way for self-employed and small business owners to buy health coverage. Many artists I spoke with are older, coming to the profession later in life. Many of us over fifty have pre-existing conditions and need regular health care.

Artists expressed concerns about the limited health coverage available in Buffalo and Pepin counties. These counties recently joined the dubious ranks of counties with only one health plan under the marketplace. Because of federal uncertainty, five counties, include La Crosse, are down to only one provider next year under the marketplace.

Farmers feared losing health coverage or changing long-standing relationships with providers.

The fear of losing health care is stressful – I heard and felt it as conversation after conversation shifted to health insurance.

As I watched the vibrantly dressed people soaking in the imaginative art, I thought about how experiencing the art fair provided a balm for our stressful lives.

Gazing at the pottery I nearly bumped into a retired physician and his wife. He also saw the attraction people found to art as a way to heal our stressed world. He shared his experiences over the years.

“When I ask ‘How are you?’ what do you think is the number one complaint I get?” he asked.

“Patients say to me ‘I’m stressed, Doctor.’ When I open up the hood and look inside, I see stress.”

“Art brings beauty. It softens the heart,” the doctor shared. The art fair helps make it better.

I watched men in florescent orange with camo, a woman in sheer black lace with her back covered in tattoos and another in a brightly colored African Dashiki.

People came together creating their own art among all the wares for sale. In all of this diversity was a beautiful harmony.

Somehow, we must take this approach to health care. A plan unique for each person. Respecting our own individuality and needs. Also, in harmony with others. Sharing the risk. Working for all.

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