In mid-May, WAWH was one of the many organizations that submitted comments to the Department of Health Services (DHS) in regards to the proposed changes to Wisconsin BadgerCare Program for Childless Adults in the form of a 1115 waiver. This waiver included proposed changes such as:
WAWH opposed their proposal as it overlooked women of childbearing age that do not have children, those with chronic conditions, and create an unhealthier Wisconsin as a whole.
DHS received a total of 1,050 comments in regards to the changes proposed by Governor Scott Walker. Only 5 out of 1,050 comments were in favor of these proposed changes. That means that 1,045 comments, or over 99.5% of those who shared their comments with DHS, were against the Governor’s plan.
DHS is still withholding the names of those that commented, but those that are known include religious leaders, non-profit organizations, doctors, students, and many other Wisconsinites. Of the 5 comments that positively regarded the proposed changes, the only two known supporters are government officials in Scott Walkers corner: Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and state Representative John Nygren. Kleefisch and Nygren currently co-chair the governor’s task force on opioid abuse.
DHS released a “Summary of Public Comments and Wisconsin DHS Response” that listed the “changes” that were made due to the comments made, but also gave a brief summary of the comments in general. Misleading statements such as, “Additionally, there were a number of other comments that were either wholly in opposition or approval of the proposed waiver amendment.” It is a tough pill to swallow that DHS would make a statement that creates the illusion that this was a 50-50 issue. It required an open records request to see the sheer number of negative comments in relation to the five positive ones.
It is clear that this plan did not take into account the view of the 1,045 comments made, because the changes that were made were essentially irrelevant to the concerns of every group that WAWH worked with and are as follows:
It is clear that the comments of the Wisconsin people were not taken seriously as the overwhelming majority of commenters’ opposed the changes that are being proposed. While DHS made changes based on these comments, those changes do not take into account any of the negative effects that WAWH and numerous other organizations see as the harm to Wisconsin. The waiver purports to increase enrollment in BadgerCare and create a healthier Wisconsin, when in reality it does the opposite. These concerns have been completely ignored by DHS.
Link here to view the final version of the waiver application submitted to CMS on June 7th.
In May WAWH submitted comments to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) regarding the Department’s proposed changes to the BadgerCare program for low-income, “childless adults” who earn an income at or below the federal poverty level. DHS is currently seeking a waiver from the federal government that would allow the Department to implement changes the program that would otherwise be prohibited by federal law that governs the Medicaid program.
The proposed changes include:
If implemented, the Department’s proposed waivers would harm low-income adults currently participating in BadgerCare. These changes will actually undermine the Department’s stated goals of reducing the uninsured rate and increasing workforce participation, as many BadgerCare participants who rely on the program to access the health care they need to maintain employment will be thrown off the program as a result of these changes. This plan will simply shift costs onto low-income people, which will lead to further cost-shifting in the form of uncompensated hospital care that will result from former BadgerCare enrollees having to turn to emergency rooms to treat conditions that could have been prevented with access to preventive care. Finally, the Department’s approach will waste state funds that could be used to implement far more effective strategies for expanding the Wisconsin workforce and providing adequate resources for substance use disorder treatment.
Many other organizations that advocate for greater access to health care and on behalf of health care professionals have expressed similar concerns regarding the Department’s proposed waiver. The widespread opposition to the proposed waiver is largely based on experiences in other states that have adopted similar policies and significant research that indicates such changes will reduce access to health care for many of the particularly vulnerable populations that would be affected by this proposal and likely have no other means through which they can access health insurance.
A copy of our waiver comments can be found here.
In 2010, the Department of Health Services (DHS) created the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 plan with the input of over 1,500 people including staff of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health. The plan set out to create a healthier Wisconsin by addressing health, social, economic, educational, and environmental issues that contribute to health problems in Wisconsin. This plan differed from previous plan because it not only focused on risk factors for death, but broadened the plan to include factors that contribute to quality of life.
The newly released Wisconsin Health Improvement Plan (WI-HIPP) supplements the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 plan with a narrowing of the focus of the DHS to five main factors. These new priority factors are alcohol, nutrition and physical activity, opioids, suicide, and tobacco. While we recognize that these are all important factors in keeping Wisconsin healthy, there are some key components missing from this Health “Improvement” Plan - components that matter greatly to the health and wellbeing of Wisconsin women and girls.
The WI-HIPP reverts back to the problem of only focusing on factors that lead to death by failing to include the following relevant health topics:
These are just examples of health concerns left out of the new plan.
Reproductive and sexual health deals with unintended pregnancies, teen births, sexually transmitted diseases, adolescents, and HIV/AIDS. While these factors may not all lead to death, the physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being to a persons’ life under these circumstances are monumental. Issues such as unintended pregnancies can also create bad birth outcomes while perpetuating disparity in Wisconsin.
Excluding injury and violence is another concern. Specifically, violence against women and children such as sexual assault needs to be a higher priority. It is estimated that 14% of Wisconsin women over the age of 18 has been raped in their lifetime. This is an act that disproportionately affects women in Wisconsin, and it is also noted that two-thirds of victims of assaults are under the age of 15, so female children are who is being harmed by this issue not receiving priority status.
Outside of the context of what issues received priority focus, the WI-HIPP purports to explore these issues from the perspective of older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, poor, and the geographically diverse, but says nothing about other underrepresented populations such as women or those of a different sexual orientation or identification.
While moving towards a more healthy Wisconsin is always a positive goal, we must be careful about how we go about reaching that goal. Disparity is one of the biggest issues in Wisconsin, and focusing on the same physical factors that have always been a priority will only perpetuate a cycle in which disparity in Wisconsin continues to grow.
Key missing components from the Emphasis of WI HIPP:
Press Release from WAWH:
Madison, WI - As an organization that advocates for the health, safety, and economic security of women and families in our state, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH) is horrified by the Trump’s budget proposal that would deny health care, food and other essential supports to struggling households with children, most of which are headed by women.
“This budget adds insult to injury for already underfunded programs that critically impact women’s health and financial security and it is a blatant assault against working families by the Trump administration,” said Sara Finger, WAWH Executive Director. “Trump’s proposal would shred safety net programs, defund Planned Parenthood and will cause deep, lasting harm to Wisconsin women and their families.”
This historically harsh proposal includes an additional $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid on top of the already proposed $880 billion in cuts from the American Health Care Act, culminating in a proposed reduction of 47% to Medicaid over 10 years. These cuts would be devastating to women’s health and are unprecedented in modern politics.
Because women bear a disproportionate share of family caretaking responsibilities, they are exceptionally impacted by these proposed cuts to programs that effect children. Several safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and income support are relied upon by mothers to keep children healthy. The budget includes a $191 billion dollar cut to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which is a last resort for families to not starve because of poverty. The cutting of these programs will affect families, but to an even greater extent, will hinder the ability of single mothers to keep themselves and their children healthy.
In addition to cutting safety net programs that countless women rely on, it also launches an attack against the reproductive rights of women. For the first time in history, the Trump budget would bar Planned Parenthood from participating in any U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program. In addition to defunding Planned Parenthood health centers from the Medicaid program, denying millions access to essential health care, these health centers would be excluded from a range of programs including Zika and cancer prevention and from Title X, the nation’s family planning program.
While the Trump budget proposal has not been enacted, and needs to be passed by both houses of Congress in order to become law, the proposal lays out the Trump administration’s dangerous priorities for our country. WAWH calls on all women’s health supporters to speak out to their national leaders to warn of the devastating impacts this budget will have on women and girls.
Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health (WAWH) Executive Director, Sara Finger, released the following statement regarding today's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson that found 1997 Wisconsin Act 292, sometimes referred to as the "Cocaine Mom Law," unconstitutional:
"WAWH is excited and relieved by today's decision to strike down this punitive law that permits the state to deprive pregnant women of basic rights and take action that is known to undermine maternal, fetal, and child health.
We are especially proud of the brave plaintiff in this case, Tammy Loertscher, who was willing to relive the trauma she endured as a result of this law in order to challenge its constitutionality. As a result of admitting to drug use before she was pregnant, Ms. Loertscher was denied her most basic constitutional rights and was incarcerated in a local jail for 18 days, which included time in solitary confinement. While in the jail she did not even have access to prenatal care or medication she needed to treat a thyroid condition.
This punitive approach to potential maternal drug use is almost uniformly opposed by the established medical community. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and American Public Health Association all filed an amicus brief opposing the law. A link to the WI ACOG statement can be found here.
WAWH hopes that Judge Peterson's ruling is upheld so that no other Wisconsin women must endure what Ms. Loertscher, along with hundreds of other women in the state since the law's enactment, have experienced under this ill-conceived law. WAWH would also like to thank attorneys from National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the law firm Perkins Coie for their invaluable work on this case."
The policy fields are "flooded" with hundreds of bills being introduced at the state and national levels every day. Even for professional advocacy organizations like ours, it's incredibly difficult to keep track and make sense of all of them. We wanted to share just a few of the bills that have been introduced at the federal level directed at improving the health, safety and economic security of women in our country.
H.R. 1516: Healthy Families Act: requires certain employers, who employ 15 or more employees for each working day during 20 or more workweeks a year, to permit each employee to earn at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
H.R. 315 Improving Access to Maternity Care Act: requires the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to collect data to better place maternity health care professionals in existing primary care health professional shortage areas.
H.R. 972: Menstrual Equality for All Act: includes five provisions to help different populations of women and girls better access menstrual hygiene items.
H.R.1143: Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act: would address diaper need in the United States by creating a demonstration program for distributing diapers to eligible families. States will have flexibility in developing and implementing their program. These demonstrations will reveal the best ways to help eligible families access diapers for their young children.
H.R.459: Trafficking Survivors Relief Act: takes critical steps to eliminate the barriers that criminal arrests and convictions create for trafficking survivors. The Act also puts in place a comprehensive system to ensure that trafficking survivors – both sex and labor, adults and children – are able to clear their federal criminal records so that they can leave their trafficking experience behind them.
H.R. 909: The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: will help bridge the gap between the tremendous need for services for domestic violence survivors with pets and the ability of agencies to meet those needs.
H.R.1276: Closing the Meal Gap Act: increases the minimum SNAP benefit and requires benefits to be calculated using a low-cost food plan. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) must determine the requirements for the low-cost food plan, which is the diet required to feed a family of four.
H.R. 1322 Women's Health Protection Act: would protect a woman's right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws intended to curtail reproductive health services for women.
S.689 - Invest in Women's Health Act of 2017: legislation to provide women with more preventive and life-saving cancer screenings at safety net clinics like Planned Parenthood. This bill would help reduce health disparities by placing an emphasis on populations most at risk, including low-income women and women of color.
If any of these bills appeal to you and you'd like your Congressional representative and Senators, be sure speak out and contact them asking them to support any of all of the legislative proposals.
Our partners at the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families has done a wonderful job analyzing, tracking and organizing the information to better understand the current proposal and has put together these helpful summaries:
We hope once you've had a chance to learn what changes are included in the budget, that you'll choose to attend one of these upcoming State Budget Hearings in communities across the state:
Based on our previous post, you already know that the GOP plan to replace the ACA is a disaster for women and families. Between preventing women from using Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood and prohibiting private marketplaces from covering abortion, women stand to lose the most with the American Health Care Act.
But with a House vote scheduled today and amendments being made by the moment, here are the most important new things for you to be aware of as you advocate again the ACA repeal and the GOP plan:
Make a call now to your Congressional Representative and tell them to vote NO on the AHCA!
Following the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score which predicted it would cause more than 24 million Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade, WAWH and other women’s health advocacy groups from around the country are urging Congressional leaders to reject the proposed American Health Care Act.
Women live in poverty at higher rates than men, earn less in full-time jobs and are less likely to have employer-sponsored insurance in their own names, the groups noted. This is especially true for women of color. For women, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies for purchase of private insurance and the expansion of Medicaid coverage have provided not only health benefits, but also much greater financial independence and stability.
By contrast, the repeal bill would:
The bill uses these deep cuts to the health care of vulnerable women and their families in order to fund tax cuts for the very wealthy, the women’s groups said. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill provides an average $7 million tax cut to each of the 400 richest households in America.
We strongly urge the House to reject this and any other bill that would roll back the coverage gains made by women under the ACA.
During WAWH’s 8th Annual Wisconsin Women’s Health Advocacy Summit, state Rep. Sondy Pope and state Sen. Janis Ringhand unveiled the "Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act." WAWH was proud to work with the bill authors and many different advocacy organizations during this exciting event that provided a great window into policy advocacy in action for our Summit participants.
WAWH has worked closely with our close ally, 9to5 Wisconsin, on promoting state paid family and medical leave legislation the past two years. We were honored to be joined by many other great allies to support paid leave, including End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the YWCA Madison, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin.
Paid leave has become a prominent economic justice issue that has received much attention recently because it is widely viewed as an area where the United States is woefully behind the rest of the world -- so much so that both major presidential candidates supported some type of paid leave policies during the 2016 campaign. Sadly, the U.S. is one of only three countries that does not guarantee workers any form of paid leave.
The Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is modeled on several successful paid family and medical leave programs that have been implemented in other states, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington, D.C. These models include creating a public insurance program that provides workers with paid family or medical leave in case they need to take time off work because of their own serious health condition, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a newborn baby.
Nationally, only 12 percent of workers have paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program. As a result, workers who take needed time off often face a significant loss of income.
This burden falls disproportionately on women workers, who make up nearly half of the workforce but are still far more likely than men to care for children or other family members who are sick. Even though both the federal and Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Acts (FMLA's) do provide important protections to some workers, a significant portion of the workforce is not eligible for these protections and both FMLA's only provide for unpaid time off, which is not financially possible for many employees.
Because of these shortcomings of the state and federal FMLA's, we need the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that employees can take the time off they need to care for themselves and their families.
If you'd like to learn more about paid family and medical leave, visit WAWH's Policy Prescription page on economic security issues (you'll have to scroll down the page a bit to get to paid leave).
If you would like to speak out in favor of the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, you can click here to contact your state legislators to urge them to sponsor the bill or click here to submit a supportive letter to the editor to your local newspaper.
Once the legislation is introduced, we will create a more detailed page on our website "Policy Watch" page to provide more background information regarding the status of the bill along with other informational materials.