Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and took some time to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It was great to see many of you in Oak Creek and South Milwaukee on Monday.

A lot happening right now at the federal level. One topic that has a lot of our neighbors on edge is the attack on our health care. Trump and federal Republicans, such as the Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, have come up with a scheme that threatens all of the positive gains made to our health care system.

Their actions could not only result in premium costs ballooning, but also forces us back to when insurance companies could pick and choose who they want to cover based solely on profitability.
 

I know this is an issue that is personal for many of you. From the rural farmer who depends on BadgerCare to the small business owner who depends on the Marketplace Insurance for access to affordable health care through the individual market.

 

Therefore, this edition of the Larson Report will focus on what's happening at the federal level and what Wisconsin Democrats are doing to push back.

Additionally, we have a breaking update about Trump pulling America off the world stage by withdrawing us from the Paris Agreement. It is up to state, businesses, and individuals to lead for now and you can read more on this below.
 

In Service,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7
 

 

Health Care Changes Looming at Federal Level

I believe each and every one of us deserves the security of having access to basic health care, especially when we need it most. Despite the positive gains we've made in access to affordable coverage, all of this is now critically at risk by Trump and Congressional Republicans. In early May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill being pushed by Speaker Paul Ryan that would be devastating to Wisconsin families.

The benefits of having a fair and even playing field between insurers and consumers are not tied to party affiliation. According to a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, those who would be most negatively affected by the federal Republican scheme reside in counties that backed Trump in the presidential election.

The reckless Republican proposal would lead to many of our neighbors losing access to affordable coverage and health care security, and would repeal many critical safeguards currently in place under the ACA. Let's break down some of the critical changes:

  • Minimum Health Care Services
    Current Law:
    Under the ACA, health care plans must cover minimum, basic services, such as hospital visits, mental health care, maternity care, and preventive care. These basic services are known as "essential health benefits" because they are considered to be the bare minimum, essential coverage necessities. This is a critical component of our new health care system, as it creates a more consumer-minded system with a uniform coverage floor.

    Republican Scheme: The Republican plan would allow states to make changes and reductions to this coverage floor. This would permit insurance companies to offer skimpier plans that do not cover many of the critical services each of us needs.
     

  • Pre-existing Conditions
    Current Law:
    Having a pre-existing condition should not bar anyone from obtaining affordable coverage. Under the ACA, families who once faced the prospect of no coverage and financial ruin due to a pre-existing condition are no longer denied access to insurance.

    Republican Scheme:
    A shockingly immoral provision in the Republican plan is the allowance for states to opt out of vital ACA safeguards, letting them jack-up premium costs for our neighbors with pre-existing conditions. This would harm too many Wisconsin kids and families; we cannot go back to a time where you can be discriminated against just because you have a pre-existing condition. 
     

  • Health Care Premium Assistance
    Current Law:
    Under the ACA, individuals up to 400% (about $48,000 annual income for a single person) of the federal poverty line qualify for premium assistance and help with co-pays and deductibles. This flexible credit also adjusts based on geographic location, since the cost of health care can vary widely from one area to the next.

    Republican Scheme: Under the Republican plan, people who are older, lower-income, or live in high-premium areas would receive less assistance making their health care costs more of a burden. Instead of assistance being based on income level, it would instead be based on age. Click here to see an interactive map, on how premium rates could change.
     

  • Caps on Coverage: Lifetime and Annual Limits 
    Current Law: Our neighbors should not be forced into financial ruin because they got sick, or have to choose between paying their rent and going to the doctor. The ACA put a ban on lifetime and annual caps on coverage, ensuring you and I and our loved ones don't fall into crippling debt due to an illness.

    Republican Scheme: The Republican health care scheme would allow states to apply for a waiver to institute annual and lifetime limits in coverage. This will have obviously deadly consequences for a serious illness like cancer, but will also greatly hurt children managing a chronic illness. Take a child with asthma for instance. This common illness requires daily medication, routine check-ups, and potentially trips to a hospital should an attack occur. Forcing these families to ration their child's care so they don't use up their limited coverage is dangerous and morally wrong. 
     

  • Moving Medicaid Backward
    Current Law:
    The state-federal Medicaid program helps cover one-in-five of our neighbors at any given moment. While current federal law provides most of the funds needed to cover more people, Walker and Wisconsin Republicans denied families in our state this opportunity. This is projected to cost us $678.6 million by the end of the year.

    Republican Scheme: Under the Republican proposal, Medicaid -- known as BadgerCare in Wisconsin, would be shifted to have per capita caps or block grant funding. In general terms, this means states would be given lumps of funds with little oversight on how it is used. It will undoubtedly mean fewer people would have access to Medicaid and fewer services would be covered.

The ACA is popular in our state because of the positive benefits it has had on our neighbors' lives. 220,000 of our friends and family members were able to access affordable health care coverage through the ACA. From 2013-2015, because of the Marketplace plans offered through the ACA, as well as increased access to employer-sponsored insurance, 195,000 less people were uninsured. According to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF), in Milwaukee County, the rate of uninsured kids when from 4.2% in 2013 to 3.1% in 2015. Uninsured adults decreased as well, from 17.5% in 2013 to 10.7% in 2015. Roughly 4% of our neighbors in Milwaukee County received coverage through the Marketplace, 83% of those families receive a tax credit to help pay for their premium. Check out the numbers for other Wisconsin counties, click here to read a WCCF blog post.

According to a new Marquette Law School Poll, a majority of Wisconsin voters want our federal elected officials to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Further, in November 2014, voters in 19 counties across the state asked Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature to accept available federal funds to strengthen our BadgerCare program.

Democrats Take Proactive Steps to Protect our Neighbors
While Wisconsin has historically taken care of our neighbors by striving to ensure health care coverage, we've seen this legacy crumble under Walker and the Republican majority. Therefore, it didn't come as a surprise to most of us when Walker said he was open to the idea of dropping protections for our loved ones with pre-existing conditions. Governor Walker stance on health care is wrong for Wisconsin and wrong for each of us who depend on having access to insurance coverage, despite previous health history.

That's why I have signed on to five recently introduced bills that would proactively protect the vital safeguards our neighbors critically need. The legislation included in this Health Care Protection Package includes:

  • Senate Bill 265: Prohibits insurance companies from charging neighbors with preexisting conditions higher rates or excluding them from coverage
     
  • Senate Bill 266: Prohibits lifetime and annual limits under health insurance policies and plans
     
  • Senate Bill 267: Requires insurance plans to cover vital preventive services at no cost to the patient
     
  • Senate Bill 268: Ensures your health care plan covers certain essential health benefits as outlined by the ACA
     
  • Senate Bill 269: Maintains access to reimbursements to family planning providers through Medicaid

According to a recently released report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, 23 million Americans would lose their health coverage under the Republican plan. Additionally, one estimate shows that over 300,000 of our Wisconsin neighbors are at risk of losing their health care coverage should the federal Republican scheme be jammed through. I am proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues in order to proactively safeguard some of the most critical protections.

What are the Next Steps for the Republican Bill?
As stated, the federal plot to repeal the ACA has been approved by the House, and is now headed to the Senate. Our neighbors have been vocal about their opposition to this plan to strip our neighbors' access from health care. As a result, Senate Republicans have formed a right wing group to meet behind closed doors and come up with their own version of an ACA repeal bill. The Senate needs 50 of the 52 Republican Senators to sign off on the secret scheme, which is expected to be finalized in the coming months.

To be clear, even if U.S. Senate Republicans come up with a proposal that is different than the House health care bill, their end goal remains the same: to get rid of the ACA, which would be devastating to Wisconsin families and communities. 

With Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson being one of the hand-selected members of the secret working group, and Governor Walker's blurry comments about whether or not he will allow for unfair insurance practices, like allowing us to be kicked off of our plan if we have a pre-existing condition, it is crucial Wisconsinites act now. We must guarantee to our neighbors that we will do everything we can to ensure they continue to have access to coverage. See how you can help in the Take Action section below.

 

Take Action:

Walker's flip-flopping on whether or not he supports ensuring people with preexisting conditions maintain access to coverage makes it clear that nothing is off the table and no one is safe.

We simply cannot trust him to do the right thing. In fact, Walker is currently pushing for a federal waiver to make changes to our BadgerCare program.

According to an analysis by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, the sweeping changes the governor is proposing would result in an increase in the number of uninsured Wisconsinites, costing us all more long-term. It would also put a time limit on coverage, denying critical health care to those who need it most, among other changes. Read more about this, here.

Call Governor Walker today at (608) 266-1212 and tell him: We must make sure that families who are struggling to make ends meet have access to affordable health care coverage, regardless of their income level or whether or not they have history of illness. Withdraw the federal waiver request in order to ensure a healthier, more prosperous state.

Call Senator Ron Johnson at (202) 224-5323 and Senator Tammy Baldwin at (202) 224-9787 to say:
Access to affordable health care is a right. We cannot go back to a system that puts profit-motivated insurance companies in charge of who gets care. Keep the Affordable Care Act!

Please also note, there will also be a community listening session hosted by several Wisconsin Democrats on Monday, June 5th in Kenosha. See the community events section below for further details.

 

Trump Pulls America off World Stage
President Trump broke our promise to the world that we would stand with the international community in supporting the Paris Agreement.

Trump is sending a dark signal to the world; his bizarre behavior shows that he is more concerned with doling out favors for polluters rather than protecting the health and prosperity of our nation and planet.

This is the time when we should be working together with the international community to take decisive, bold action to combat the negative effects of climate change before it is too late. Instead, his betrayal of science and harsh rejection of worldwide efforts to safeguard our health and environment dangerously jeopardizes American interests and further isolate us.

Although Trump and his polluter allies are climate change deniers, the overwhelming majority of our neighbors understand the simple truth that climate change is real and is happening, that humans are contributing to it, and that no matter how fervently they delude themselves we are already witnessing its effects.

It is time to take a stand and let Trump and the world know that Americans understand the growing crisis of climate change and that we strongly oppose President Trump's immoral betrayal of our conservation commitment. Read more about this, here.

 
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 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:
  • Our Schools are the Center of our Neighborhood
    On May 4, Rep. Christine Sinicki and I, along with some of our Democratic colleagues, unveiled the Community Schools Act.

    Every child in Wisconsin deserves a fair shot and an equal opportunity to receive a quality education. That's why it's unacceptable that our public schools have faced catastrophic cuts, while taxpayer dollars flow to unaccountable private voucher schools. The Community Schools Act helps reverse this trend and guarantees that our students have the support they need to succeed, both in and out of the classroom.

    The Community Schools Act provides start-up funding for community schools, which offer students and families a variety of critical programs and resources on top of a traditional curriculum. These services include physical and mental health care, after-school care, academic mentoring, and family support. The goal of these programs is to promote student learning, strengthen families, and create healthier communities. The community school model depends on collaboration with partner organizations to achieve these goals.

    The Community Schools Act also includes provisions to ensure that both rural and urban school districts in Wisconsin can benefit from the host of opportunities the community school model provides. Click here to see a video of the press conference.

     
  • Disturbing Financial Ties Between Walker and Ultra-Conservative Bradley Foundation Revealed
    A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Special Report has exposed the dark and disturbing financial ties between Governor Walker and the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. If you had any doubt remaining that under Governor Walker and his Republican Legislative allies our government is being sold off to special interests, this report will erase that doubt and will confirm your darkest fears.

    Although the Bradley Foundation hides behind nonpartisan tax status, their reach into Republican politics and their heavy hand in guiding conservative policy is undeniable.

    The leaked documents cited in the report confirm that the Bradley Foundation is funneling money to fuel an ultra-conservative, Trump-like agenda darkly designed to destroy the support systems our communities have set up to help us and our neighbors in our times of greatest need.

    If you want to know why you have an anxious feeling about the backward direction of our state and have not been able to understand why Walker and other Republicans have betrayed our values, you need to read this report.

     
  • Trump Administration Attacks Those with Student Loan Debt
    I recently joined with my fellow Democrats in the Senate and Assembly in sending a letter to Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel asking him to join 21 other states in opposing Trump's Education Secretary's plan to eliminate student loan protections that were enacted under President Obama.

    These crucial protections were put in place after student loan holders reported widespread problems and "systemic mistreatment" of borrowers by student loan servicing corporations, such as delays in payments being processed and being charged unexpected fees.

    With over 1 million of our Wisconsin neighbors repaying their students loans, it's past time GOP legislators join Democrats in protecting our neighbors from predatory practices by corporate profiteers. Click here to view the letter.


    In a similar action of betrayal, Wisconsin Republican's turned their backs on the nearly one million Wisconsin residents who are being crippled by students loan debt by voting against a student refinancing motion proposed by Democrats on the state's budget writing committee. Read more about this, here.
     
  • Wisconsin Last in New Business Start-ups...Again
    For the third year in a row, Wisconsin is dead last in the nation for new business startup activity.

    It is clear the policies of Governor Walker and legislative Republicans are not working. We must refocus on creating an environment that will attract investors, such as having a nationally recognized University System, strong community schools, tax incentives targeted to foster innovation and attract entrepreneurs, not just blanket giveaways to large corporations. Read more about this, here.
     
  • Suppressing Access to Voting   
    300,000 of our neighbors who were eligible to vote leading up to the presidential election lacked a photo ID that satisfied the strict requirements set by Wisconsin Republican's under their voter suppression law.

    While it is unknown just how many of those Wisconsinites were able to obtain a valid ID before Election Day, as the article below points out, "it is not hard to find the Navy veteran whose out-of-state driver's license did not suffice, or the dying woman whose license had expired, or the recent graduate whose student ID was deficient — or [Gladys] Harris, who at 66 made her way to her polling place despite chronic lung disease and a torn ligament in her knee." Having lost her driver's license and despite supplemental identification, her attempt to vote was rejected.

    Now, Trump has threatened to attack our democracy and citizen engagement just like the Wisconsin GOP in 2011.

    Late last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order forming a commission that will look at voting and elections, which will be headed by a known advocate for strict voter ID laws. Just like in Wisconsin, there is no evidence that widespread voter fraud is happening nationwide -- it is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors scheme to enact policies that will disenfranchise our neighbors and make it harder for them to cast their ballot.

    I encourage you to read this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article to hear the stories of several Wisconsinites as they faced barriers to accessing their constitutional right to vote.

     
  • "Thank You" to our Teachers
    May 9 was National Teacher Appreciation Day, a day in which we honor and celebrate our neighbors who have dedicated their lives and careers to educating and inspiring our nation's future.
    As a father and Milwaukee Public Schools parent, I give great personal thanks and appreciation to the millions of patient, caring, and selfless individuals to whom we entrust so much.
    It's been no secret that here in Wisconsin, quality public education has been a casualty of the GOP assault on knowledge. Historic K-12 budget cuts and labor attacks, orchestrated by Governor Walker, have left Wisconsin schools desperate for teaching staff and lacking the resources needed to adequately teach our children. Our kids deserve better.

    Despite being devalued and dehumanized by Wisconsin GOP members, our public school teachers continue to push forward to educate and be advocates for our children. Their energy and resolve, in a political climate that is against learning, is a true testament to their love of being educators. I am proud to stand beside them.
     
  • National Bike School Day!
    This year, I am excited to be again working with 4th and 5th graders from Cooper Elementary School in Milwaukee to designate biking as our official state exercise.

    Recognized as a national leader in bicycling, Wisconsin's road system and off-road terrain make it the perfect place to seek out amazing biking adventures. Our state is home to some of the most scenic biking trails in the Midwest, Wisconsin offers touring trails that make it safe, easy, and fun to get out and enjoy the outdoors while participating in an exercise that has innumerable health benefits. Cycling builds stamina, increases muscle tone, improves heart health, and decreases stress.

    In addition to health benefits, biking has a significant economic impact on our state. As a national leader in the biking industry, Wisconsin is home to some of the largest bike-related manufacturing in the country. Through tourism, manufacturing, and related health benefits, Wisconsin sees an annual boost of $1.5 billion from the sport.

    I am extremely proud of the students at Cooper Elementary School for their hard work on this bill and have no doubts that they will continue being strong advocates for our community! Click here
    for opportunities to explore Wisconsin's unique bike trails.
     
  • GOP Backpedals on Privacy
    Last week, GOP lawmakers hastily backpedaled on privacy protection. When faced with even the possibility of discussion, let alone adoption of important internet privacy protections, Senate Republicans chose to delay Assembly Bill 123, a bill that would start to allow more investment in broadband expansion in Wisconsin.

    Actions by Trump and other federal Republicans have created a dangerous privacy gap, ripping open the door to your personal information being auctioned off without your consent or knowledge. Wisconsinites have an inherent right to privacy, and it is critical that our state fights back against national efforts to make our personal information, habits, and preferences a profit commodity for internet providers.

    Despite their rhetoric, it seems like Assembly and Senate Republicans will come up with any excuse to delay and deny broadband expansion to families and communities across Wisconsin. View a previous Larson Report newsletter on this topic, here.

    Indications are that GOP may stuff Assembly Bill 123 provisions into the budget to avoid privacy protections.

     
Events in our Community 

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.

Hot Summer Milwaukee -- Find fun summer learning for your kids!
Looking for some fun and educational programs for your child this summer? Hot Summer Milwaukee is a collaborative, community-wide effort to expand and promote fun summer learning opportunities for kids in the Milwaukee area. Through HotSummerMKE.com, families can be connected with summer schools, community programs, and fun events in their neighborhood that will keep your child engaged throughout the summer months. Sign up for classes or enroll your child in camp… all in one place!
CLICK HERE for more information.


Milwaukee VA Medical Center 150th Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, June 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Celebrate with the Milwaukee VAMC as they put on re-enactments, musical entertainment, tours of the grounds and select buildings, adaptive sports demonstrations and a look at their history of care over 15 decades.
CLICK HERE for more information.


6th Annual Spring on Brady Art Walk
Saturday, June 3 from Noon to 4 p.m.
Come on down to Brady Street to celebrate Spring as we bring you our 6th Annual Art Walk. Also, shop amazing sidewalk sales along with spectacular dining and drink deals as we celebrate Springtime!

Over 30 merchants will be hosting live artists from painting and sketching, chalk drawing, pottery, puppy printing and even blacksmithing!
CLICK HERE for more information.
 

Chill on the Hill
Tuesdays, June through August from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Bay View is home to Humboldt Park, which features a beautiful band shell especially designed for acoustic excellence. Bay View neighbors gather on the vast hillside above the band shell to enjoy music performed by local musicians. Bay View Neighborhood Association puts on Chill on the Hill in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks. Bring your own food and drink or patronize one of the many excellent food vendors that set up at Chill each week. For more information, including parking info, CLICK HERE.


Health Care Listening Session -- Kenosha
Monday, June 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at UAW Local 72 Hall, located at 3615 Washington Road in Kenosha.
Members of the Wisconsin Legislature will hold a listening session regarding present attacks on Wisconsinites' health care.With attacks on health care being waged on multiple fronts, Wisconsin residents from all walks of life are experiencing unprecedented fear and uncertainty about whether they will have access to or be able to afford quality healthcare in the months and years ahead. This is particularly so for Wisconsin women for a variety of reasons. With the pending federal legislation and budget concerns in Washington and Madison, this is a particularly timely forum which will allow us to hear from Wisconsin residents about their healthcare experiences, concerns, and fears.

Several federal elected officials will be invited to join the listening session to hear from Wisconsinites about how they would be required to pay more money but get less health care under proposals like the AHCA and the state and federal budgets. Come share your stories and concerns. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

 

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

(608) 266 7505
(800) 361-5487

Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov
SenatorChrisLarson.com
  

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