LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER

 

October 6, 2016

     

 

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below.



 



 

2016 Milwaukee Canoes for a Cause
Date: Saturday, October 1from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: 2016 marks the 5th annual Milwaukee Canoes for a Cause -- hosted by Milwaukee Riverkeeper, the Urban Ecology Center, and Leinenkugel Brewing Co. The event will feature a clean-up and canoe ride along the Kinnickinnic River followed by a cookout at Steny's Tavern & Grill. For more information on this event or to get involved, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Milwaukee Film Festival
Date: September 22 through October 6
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The annual Milwaukee Film Festival starts this Thursday, September 22 and runs through October 6. This year's festival will feature over 170 films from around the world. To find a full listing of films, their locations, and times please CLICK HERE.

 

Screening of "Waking in Oak Creek"
Date: October 13 at 6 p.m.

Location: South Milwaukee

Details: South Milwaukee Public Library will screen the movie "Waking in Oak Creek" about the Sikh Temple massacre. After watching the 30 minute documentary, there will be a community talk back featuring the Mayor of South Milwaukee Erik Brooks, the Mayor of Oak Creek, Stephen Scaffidi, and a son of one of the victims, Pardeep Kaleka. Registration is required. To register, CLICK HERE.
 

South Milwaukee Public Library

(MAP)

1907 10th Ave, South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

Halloween Glen
Date:
Friday, October 14 through Saturday, October 15
Location:
Milwaukee
Description:
This non-scary Halloween and educational event is perfect for families! This year's theme will focus on all of the watery places here in Wisconsin and all of the creatures that call it home. Participants will load a bus at MPS Central Services and ride over to Hawthorn Glen. People who wish to participate should register in advance.
For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

 

MPS Central Services
(MAP)
5225 W Vliet St
Milwaukee, WI 53208

 

 

Trek 'n Treat at Grant Park
Date: October 16, from1 p.m. 4 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: An educational event for families, costumes optional. Trek through the trails of the seven bridges area, answer questions about nature, visit historic Wulff Lodge and receive treats at 20 stations in the park. There will be a pumpkin painting contest, best nature costume contest, birding info and more. Registration is $2/participant. Handicapped accessible route available. CLICK HERE for more information.

Grant Park

(MAP)

100 Hawthorne Ave.

South Milwaukee, 53172


 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 
Last weekend was a busy one in the Milwaukee area, and it was great to see our neighbors showing up to support good causes.

I was happy to stop by AIDS Walk Wisconsin, an event to help support efforts for HIV prevention, care, and treatment in Wisconsin.

Another great event was the Head Start Dental Day. Approximately 200 volunteer dental professionals, dental and hygiene students, and faculty, participated in this event to offer children ages 3-16 with free dental exams, cleanings, fluoride treatments, and emergency dental care.

While chatting with neighbors this weekend, it was clear that one of our shared Wisconsin values is ensuring each person has the opportunity to get a healthy start in life.

As such, this week's Larson Report will focus on health care costs in Wisconsin, ways our state can address costs, and local efforts to push for action.
 

In Service,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Affordable Health Care for You and Your Family 

All of us deserve the freedom and ability to see a doctor when we feel sick and to get regular checkups to prevent chronic illness -- without having to worry about needing to forgo paying for housing or groceries. While the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided health care access and security to millions of Americans, the Walker administration and legislative Republicans have intentionally rejected other ways the law could save us money.

The benefits of the ACA are crucial to Wisconsin. In fact, the number of uninsured Wisconsinites fell by 195,000 from 2013-2015.

Earlier this year, President Obama came to Milwaukee as the city won the White House's Healthy Communities Challenge by newly enrolling about 38,000 people in a federal Marketplace plan. Across the state, our neighbors are embracing the benefits the ACA has brought.

Learn more about the Healthy Communities Challenge by reading this Fox6 News article, here.

The ACA created certain health care standards across the country, like ending the unhealthy practice of claiming "pre-existing conditions" to end a person's insurance when they need it most. This ensures our family and loved ones can no longer get kicked off of their health care plan just because they get sick.

In many ways, the ACA shifted the expectation within the insurance industry that people deserve fair health care coverage because its the right thing, and it leveled the playing field between profit-motivated insurance companies and consumers. Importantly, the ACA also also gave states real policy tools to help reduce health care costs. 

Wisconsin remains one of the most expensive states to be healthy as Governor Walker has resisted many cost-saving provisions included in the ACA. In fact, we have the second-highest health care costs in the nation, according to a report by Citizen Action Wisconsin. There is more that Wisconsin can and should be doing to make being healthy an integral part of our everyday lives, not an added stress or economic burden.

See the Citizen Action Report, here.

Addressing High Health Care Costs
The rising cost of health care rates are partially due to "transitional plans," which 200,000 Wisconsinites are currently enrolled in.

Transitional plans were created before implementation of the ACA, often have high-deductibles, and even allow insurance providers to discriminate who they provide coverage to. Under the federal health care law, states were given the freedom to prohibit the use of transitional plans. While states like Minnesota, California, and Oregon did, Wisconsin -- under the leadership of the Walker administration and legislative Republicans -- did not.

Under these plans, insurance companies have been able to reap profits from healthy people who often do not fully utilize their coverage while other Wisconsinites -- who are typically less healthy than those on transitional plans -- are forced to enroll in more expensive plans. As a result of Republican partisan neglect, insurance rates have increased by at least 10%.

States that have chosen to safeguard taxpayers by banning the discriminatory transitional plans have also promoted -- or in some cases have required -- that insurers offer a "Standardized Plan" also known as a Low Out-of-Pocket plan as they usually offer generic and brand name prescriptions, mental health outpatient care, specialist visits, and more with no deductibles. These plans were developed as a way to combat high-deductible, low-quality plans, which have been shown to be largely ineffective in guaranteeing quality, affordable health care access. The high-deductible plans dissuade individuals from getting timely medical treatment that would reduce high cost crisis services. This is costly to our health and pocketbook. 

The Low Out-of-Pocket plans generally offer a standardized zero deductible and low-cost co-payments. The co-pay for things like doctor visits or generic drugs is around $30, and around $50 for name brand/specialty drugs. These plans are for everyone, based on the precept that providing quality preventive health care will reduce hospital expenses, saving patients money.

Democrats, Advocates, and Citizens Mobilize to Reduce Costs, Expand Options
Since the Walker administration and legislative Republicans have refused to utilize crucial cost-saving tools available under the ACA to address the rising costs of health care, a group of advocates from across Wisconsin got together to push for action.

Additionally, my Democratic colleagues and I sent letters to Wisconsin insurance companies urging them to offer Low Out-of-Pocket plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Too many hardworking Wisconsinites are struggling to afford their out-of-pocket expenses for vital medical care, and companies offering insurance plans on the Marketplace have an opportunity to ease the financial burden our neighbors face simply by offering these plans.

With Low Out-of-Pocket plans, our neighbors in Milwaukee could save around $3,702 in average medical deductibles per year, per person. This is in addition to the $1,952 in savings to critical prescription medicine.

See what individuals in other counties could save, here.

This strong letter, along with the individual stories shared with these companies from Wisconsinites, was deeply moving and convinced some insurers to move forward with offering Low Out-of-Pocket plans. Last week, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, lawmakers, and consumers announced that five major insurance carriers in Wisconsin are confirmed to be offering Low Out-of-Pocket health plans for 2017. Molina Healthcare, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, and Network health will provide access to these plans in 42 Wisconsin counties, saving Wisconsin consumers over $209 million per year in medical deductibles and prescription costs.

Read the letter, here.

Controlling Costs through Rate Review
Thanks to the hard work and advocacy of Wisconsin consumers, advocacy groups, and legislators, major health care insurers heard the need for these plans and listened. Now, it's time for legislative leaders and the Walker administration to do their part in helping to protect us from skyrocketing health care costs. There are good actors and bad actors in the industry, and a bill introduced last session by Rep. Debra Kolste and me would ensure that Walker's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) would be an active participant in this process, rather than a passive spectator.

This bill sought to strengthen Wisconsin's "rate review" process.
Currently, Wisconsin operates under a "file and use" system. What this means, is that plans are not required to apply for approval in order to increase rates. Instead, health insurance carriers are only required to file rates with the governor's insurance commissioner within 30 days of when they will use them

The Walker Administration has never challenged a rate increase, they have sat on their hands and taken a Cabana chair approach to our state's high health care costs.

Our rate review bill would have changed the status quo and required Walker's insurance commissioner to ensure that health insurance rate hikes are not excessive and unjustified. Additionally, the bill would have also increased accountability and transparency by ensuring all rate increases of health insurers are published publicly, and would have required "prior authorization" by OCI before allowing rates to increase

As seen in other states, like Minnesota, a transparent rate review process with strong public scrutiny provides the necessary checks and balances needed to ensure premium rates are not excessive.

Unfortunately, the bill was denied a public hearing in its Republican-controlled committee despite hundreds of Wisconsinites sending a letter to the committee chair asking him to do so.
Wisconsinites like Carla from LaCrosse, who said, "Wisconsin needs to take measures to limit excessive increases in health insurance rates. I get very little health care because even paying insurance premiums and having coverage I still end up paying 90% of my health care service bill. I cannot afford high premiums and turn around and pay for health care too."

While this bill did not pass last session, I look forward to continuing to work with Wisconsinites like Carla -- who are desperate for the Legislature to act to address health care costs -- as well as experts and other legislators to continue to call for action and push for the Legislature and the Walker administration to act.

Putting Politics over People by Rejecting Federal Health Care Assistance
Legislative Republicans and Governor Walker have made it clear, time and time again, that they are not committed to our moral responsibility of ensuring access to basic health care -- even if it means saving the state money.

For instance, rejecting federal funding for BadgerCare is expected to cost the state nearly $680 million by June 2017. Throughout the last legislative session, Republican leaders ignored calls by Democratic legislators and the public by coldly choosing to reject our federal tax dollars that could have expanded BaderCare, essentially sending our tax dollars to other sates.

Accepting federal health care dollars makes sense for all of us, and I anticipate my Democratic colleagues and I will continue to urge the Republican-controlled Legislature to accept these critical funds when session resumes in January 2017.

Enroll in Health Care Coverage
On November 1, 2016, the 4th open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace will begin. For information on how to enroll, click here.


 

Mental Health Awareness Week
During the first full week of October, the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) raises awareness of mental illness. In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week 2016, NAMI has chosen to highlight five important issues in the mental health community:

1.) Access to Medical Treatment: Everyone deserves access to quality mental health
services in their community

2.) Jail Diversion:
Jails and prisons hold disproportionate numbers of people with
mental illness... we need to find a better way.

3.) Supported Employment:
Employment is an important part of recovery and every
person who wants to work can work with the right support.

4.) Transportation:

Without access to reliable transportation, people with mental illness
are denied the ability to lead a fulfilling life.

5.) Youth Mental Health:

Youth deserve to have a supportive and safe space in which to raise their voices on issues and policies affecting their mental health.

As part of their efforts to raise awareness, NAMI is asking individuals to participate in their #PledgeAgainstStigma Project.

For more information on how you can get involved, click here.

Additionally, if you are a loved one is in need of mental health care services, NAMI Greater Milwaukee can provide resources and support.

Visit NAMI Greater Milwaukee's website for more information. 

 

In Case You Missed It
Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and in our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
  • Recent reports are showing that voters are not receiving accurate information about their voting rights and the new barriers they will face when trying to vote. The group VoteRiders has recorded various interactions with DMV employees across the state of Wisconsin during which applicants were given incorrect information on how to obtain proper identification for voting. According to a shocking Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, a DMV worker in Hudson even told a woman, "You're not guaranteed to get an ID card. Nothing's guaranteed.' Eligible voters should be encouraged to participate, not mislead by failed Republican policies. Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, here.
     
  • The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that they have added Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Domes to its 2016 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. It is widely known that our community's beloved Mitchell Park Domes are at risk of closure after years of deferred maintenance and political neglect. Families from across the state and nation come to enjoy and appreciate the Domes. Quite simply they are an undisputed culturally significant asset to our community. I know my family, friends, and neighbors would be devastated to see the history and memories made at the Domes demolished. Please consider signing the National Trust for Historic Preservation petition, urging for these unique structures to be preserved.
     
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has halted this crucial corruption investigation into Scott Walker's pay-to-play schemes. The John Doe documents that were leaked recently exposed a culture of corruption that violates our shared values. The public has a right to know who is influencing lawmakers charged with representing them. Read this Facebook post for more.
     
  • Recently, an audit was approved to comprehensively look at the condition of King nursing home. It's an American value that our veterans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, especially when it comes to their quality of life and care. Sadly, shocking allegations about the treatment of veteran residents at the King nursing home facility have come to light in recent weeks. Read this Facebook post for more.
     
  • All across the state, neighbors gathered on September 29 to discuss their concerns over our crumbling local roadways at a "Turnout for Transportation" event. Under Governor Walker, a majority of Wisconsin's local and county roads have been falling in such disrepair that we have been ranked among the nation's worst states in regards to road surfaces and infrastructure. Read an update about the event, here.
     
  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has put together some of the best, photo-ready places for families to visit and enjoy the vibrant colors, including some spectacular vistas in the 7th Senate District. From the North Point Lighthouse at Lake Park to Grant Park in South Milwaukee this list will allow you to bike, hike, and climb your way to experiencing one of our neighbors' favorite seasons of the year. See the list, here. The autumn colors typically peak during late September into October. Travel Wisconsin has an interactive Fall Color Radar on their website that updates users on the status of the colors across the state. View the radar, here.

 

Know Who You're Voting For? Vote Early!

Voting is our cornerstone American freedom. Recent news stories bringing to light the role dark money plays in our election system are a stark reminder that we must make our voice heard by casting our vote.

In an effort to expand voting access in Milwaukee, the City will increase the amount of hours available for our neighbors to vote early. Over 700 hours are scheduled, from now until the Saturday before Election Day.

Click here to view locations and hours for early voting.

The City of Milwaukee Election Commission -- like many communities across Wisconsin -- is looking for hardworking citizens that have a dedication to democracy and protecting voter rights to work at the polls. Election inspectors play a vital role at voting sites.

Click here for information on becoming a poll worker.

If you reside outside of the city of Milwaukee and are looking for opportunities to volunteer on Election Day or information on early voting in your jurisdiction, contact your municipal clerk.

To find out who your municipal clerk is and how to contact them, click here.

 

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