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May 22, 2015

No budget changes to Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program

AARP members rally for SeniorCare

AARP members rally for SeniorCare

State budget writers will leave a popular program alone. Joint Finance Committee co-chair, Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), acknowledged the outcry by seniors in response to Governor Scott Walker’s proposed changes to the SeniorCare prescription drug plan.

“There will be no changes to the program, and that’s basically to the credit of the folks in Wisconsin, and the people who represent them down here in Madison,” Nygren said.

Walker’s plan called for requiring SeniorCare enrollees to first get their drugs through Medicare Part D, with the state program filling the coverage gap. It would have increased premiums for more than 87,000 enrollees in the program. Nygren had indicated as early as March that Walker’s changes were unlikely to remain in the budget.

“This is something they (seniors) have grown to expect.” Nygren said. “They understand it, it’s a very simple program. You pay your enrollment fee, you have five dollar co-pay and fifteen dollar co-pay. Very easy, very clean to understand.”

Representative Andy Jorgenson (D-Milton), who took the lead in opposing the governor’s proposed changes to SeniorCare, called the decision a victory for seniors. “It’s sad that it takes over 14,000 people to sign petitions, to lose a lot of sleep, to work really hard to make something that’s so common sense happen,” Jorgenson said.

Walker says GOP needs candidate who can ‘fight and win’

Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

One possible 2016 presidential contender says there are many good Republicans who have entered the race. However, Governor Scott Walker told those attending the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma Thursday that he has yet to see a candidate who can “fight and win…the battles we need to move this country forward with common sense conservative reforms.”

Walker, who is not expected to formally announce his own plans about a presidential run until this summer, said many of the candidates who have announced so far have either proven they can win at the ballot box or have been “fighting the good fight” on conservative issues. However, Walker said “I have yet to see anyone in the field, or emerging field, who has done both.”

Walker helped kick off the conference in Oklahoma, where attendees will also hear from a long list of other Republican White House hopefuls. He was introduced by Republican Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate down to 4.4 percent in April

The state’s jobless rate in April was at 4.4 percent, down from 4.6 in March.

April’s preliminary unemployment rate of 4.4 percent is the state’s lowest rate since April of 2008 — and lower than the national rate of 5.4 percent. That’s according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Manufacturing, construction, and professional services jobs are up.

Wisconsin gained 35,736 private-sector jobs in all of 2014, for a growth rate of 1.5 percent. However, the tally over the past four years is only slightly more than half of Governor Scott Walker’s 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term.

About 130,000 jobs were created during Walker’s first term — slightly more than half of his stated goal.

The new preliminary estimates for April from the BLS were released Thursday by the state Department of Workforce Development.

Bill coordinates obesity-related illness treatment for Medicare patients

Two Congressmen from the Midwest want to address the health issues tied to obesity among senior citizens. One of them is 3rd District Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind, who says more needs to be done in the areas of care coordination and patient education.  “Erik Paulson, he’s a member from the Minnesota delegation, and I teamed up with legislation that would make it easier to coordinate care with seniors in Medicare when it comes to obesity related illnesses and healthy lifestyles.”

Kind told affiliate WSAU chronic disease management is a very important cost in the overall health care system, as well as a person’s quality of life when they have obesity-related illnesses.

The bill Kind and Paulsen introduced is designed to help coordinate care for seniors in the Medicare program when it comes to obesity-related illnesses and healthy lifestyles.  “This would help establish more care coordination system for them and make access to certain forms of treatment, alternative forms of medicine, and prescription medication more available so we can get out ahead of this cost curve, lead to healthier lifestyles, prolong the quality of life that our seniors should enjoy in their retirement and in their golden years.”

Kind says helping people live healthier lives also drives down the cost to the Medicare system, where 5 percent of the Medicare participants are responsible for 50 percent of the Medicare health costs due to chronic diseases, and most of it is tied to obesity.

Kind says his legislation is primarily education and outreach, and does not mandate diets or lifestyle choices in any way for Medicare patients.

Larry Lee, WSAU

Uber to expand in Wisconsin

Uber expected to expand to five more Wisconsin cities today.

Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Lake Geneva, and Wisconsin Dells will get the online ride-sharing service — just weeks after statewide standards were approved for Uber and similar companies. Uber’s Wisconsin manager, Adam Dries, says his company wants to be in as many places as possible, and the new state law will make it easy to achieve that.

Traditional taxi services say their new competition does not face as many regulations as they do. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin wanted to regulate the ride-sharing companies in a similar manner as taxis, but the new state law prohibits such local ordinances.

The new law requires ride-sharing firms to buy state licenses, do background checks on their drivers, refuse to discriminate against passengers, and buy liability insurance.

Uber continues to operate in Madison, as well as Milwaukee and Green Bay.