HealthWatch Wisconsin's
Update Newsletter
"Your trusted source for health care coverage updates and strategies."

Our 10th Annual Conference is next week!  Join us in Madison on March 22 & 23 for our conference, "The Health Care Coverage Pendulum Swings."

We have much to discuss! From the federally proposed ACA replacement plan and Medicaid changes, to the latest CBO report and Wisconsin state budget, we'll be talking about all these issues and more. Register today.

View the latest edition of the agenda with of confirmed speakers!

"Repeal Plan Revealed; CBO Report Released"
"American Health Care Act" Explained

Brynne--joined by special guest Bobby Peterson--breaks down the ACA "repeal and replace" bill proposed by Republican policymakers on March 6.

Find out why both Brynne and Bobby give the new bill "two thumbs down."

CBO Analysis of ACA Insurance Gains: House Plan Amounts to Repeal and Erase                       By: Jon Peacock, WCCF Blog , reprinted with permission

A new report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirms most of our worst fears about the House Republican plan to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and radically change Medicaid.  The  March 13th report  released by the Republican-appointed director of the CBO shows the following:
  • Federal Medicaid funding would drop even more than we anticipated – with a total of $880 billion of cuts over the next ten years!
  • The number of uninsured Americans would jump to 52 million in 2026, which is an increase of 24 million compared to the CBO estimate for retaining the ACA.
  • By 2026 the sharp drop in people with insurance would essentially erase all the dramatic gains achieved in coverage over the last several years.

 Many advocates in Wisconsin are especially concerned about the Medicaid provisions, which would change the fundamental nature of the health care safety net by capping the federal share of Medicaid spending (beginning in October 2019). That change wouldn’t boost the uninsured rate as fast as some other parts of the bill, but over time the caps would do irreparable damage to essential health care services for millions of children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Medicaid Program Changes in Governor's Budget Proposal

Even as the federal legislature looks prepared to cap Medicaid funding, Governor Walker's proposed budget for 2017 and 2018 offers a few promising ideas for Wisconsin's Medicaid programs. Naturally, there are a couple of wrinkles that ought to be reconsidered, but reforms to the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP) premium schedule and an increase in the income eligibility limit for Medicaid for the Elderly, Blind, and Disabled (EBD) may help extend Medicaid coverage to more Wisconsinites.

One notable provision in the governor's budget would bring the income limit for EBD Medicaid in line with the income limit for BadgerCare Plus by raising it to 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) - $1,005 per month for a single individual. Under current rules, Medicaid eligibility tops out at about $817 per month for a single person. As a practical matter, this rule change is not likely to have much impact on low-income adults because most adults under 100% FPL are already eligible for Medicaid benefits through the BadgerCare Plus program. It may, however, help to increase coverage opportunities for children with disabilities thanks to federal rules that allow children to disregard a portion of their parents' income for Medicaid eligibility determinations.

(Read the full version)

HHS Letter to Governors on Medicaid; Walker's Response

Yesterday, the new leadership of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) addressed the US Governors about state options to dramatically restructure Medicaid. Both HHS Secretary Tom Price and recently confirmed CMS Administrator Seema Verma crafted the letter under the guise of giving more flexibility to the states.

The letter reinforces much of Verma’s handiwork when serving as an insurance broker at Verma & SVC, Inc; the content foreshadows looming transformations of Medicaid. The letter states, “It is our intent to use existing sec. 1115 demonstration authority to review and approve meritorious innovations that build on the human dignity that comes with training, employment, and independence,” hinting at work requirements in Medicaid programs will be approved.

Verma’s history left a wake of disruptions to Medicaid eligibility in some states—both work requirements and cost sharing requirements for Medicaid and Foodshare. Similar to the language in the AHCA, the letter calls for eliminating presumptive eligibility and retroactive coverage in Medicaid. They say these features “do not promote continuous coverage.” HealthWatch Wisconsin views these efforts as devastating to people eligible for services before and at the time of admission for services. We know too well that complicated eligibility pathways create barriers to coverage that cause patients to slip through the cracks and end up with medical debts and collection activity. Most hospitals should be howling from the rooftops over that one. This will jack up uncompensated care----so everybody pays for that.

(Read the full version)
Save the Date: Joint Finance Committee Hearings

This week, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a summary of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-2019 state budget. The LFB budget summary provides a plain language detail of Walker’s budget and will serve as the guide as the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) begin their review of the budget.

Following the release of the analysis, a tentative schedule was released outlining the JFC’s review of the budget. Starting March 27-30, JFC will begin agency briefings. At these hearings, agency heads defend the governor’s budget and answer questions from committee members.

JFC will hold public hearings in April across the state: Monday, April 3 in Platteville, Wednesday, April 5 in Milwaukee, Friday, April 7 in Marinette, Tuesday, April 18 in Spooner, Wednesday, April 19 in Ellsworth and Friday, April 21, with the location to be determined.

We expect executive sessions to start May 2.

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