Milwaukee Urban League President Ralph Hollmon (far left) and his organization recently hosted a workshop on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for small businesses and non-profit organizations at the Department of Natural Resources building on Martin Luther King Drive and North Avenue. Hollmon is joined by Katherine Leonis (center) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chicago Regional Office; and Eric Ness (far right), district director of the Wisconsin District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Both Leonis and Ness addressed a gathering of small business owners and heads of non-profits about the impact the new healthcare laws will have on their businesses and organizations. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Reps. Ron Kind (WI-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4) and Representative-elect Mark Pocan (WI-2) today sent a letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker asking him to move forward in implementing Wisconsin’s state-based health insurance exchange, made possible through the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Walker faces a November 16th deadline in deciding whether the state will run its own exchange or the federal government will run Wisconsin’s exchange.
“It is critical that Governor Walker moves forward and allows the State of Wisconsin to set up the health insurance exchange that best meets the needs of small businesses, family farmers and consumers here at home, it’s the Wisconsin way,” said Rep. Ron Kind. “Health insurance exchanges have previously had bipartisan support. Now is the time to put partisanship aside and do what is best for the people of Wisconsin.”
“State leaders must choose whether to create a state-based exchange, a hybrid state-federal exchange, or leave it entirely up to the federal government,” said Senator Herb Kohl. “The best choice for Wisconsin’s small businesses, families and individuals is to keep things in our state so we can meet our unique and specific needs. I hope that they will make the right decision for Wisconsinites.”
“Wisconsin has a strong tradition of advancing health care reforms and this is an important opportunity for our state to lead in moving reform forward,” said Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin. “I am committed to bringing people together and working collaboratively to make America’s new health care law work for Wisconsin. I also believe that putting in place a Wisconsin-run health insurance exchange will provide Wisconsin families and businesses more choices for the quality coverage our state is known for providing our citizens. Taking ownership of this opportunity is the right path forward for all of Wisconsin.”
“The implementation of this health insurance exchange, should Governor Walker allow it to proceed, will provide Wisconsinites with a ‘one stop shopping’ experience to compare prices, quality and physician and hospital networks,” said Rep. Gwen Moore. “This program will empower Wisconsinites to determine what works best for them and their families while keeping prices low and affordable. I join my colleagues in urging the Governor to move forward with this vital implementation.”
“Wisconsin voters went to the polls this election and supported candidates who advocate polices that extend health care to more and more Americans,” said Rep-Elect Mark Pocan. “We must ensure the people of our state have every opportunity to access quality health care.”
Health care reform provides for state-based health insurance exchanges that allow small businesses, family farmers, and individuals to pool their purchasing power to find quality, affordable health care. Exchanges create a marketplace that allow consumers to comparison shop among a variety of plans and prices, giving all Americans access to the same type of quality, affordable coverage that is now often available only to large employers. Based on the SHOP Act, authored by Rep. Kind, exchanges have long received strong bipartisan support because they are transparent, consumer-friendly, and operate on free market principles.
With President Obama’s reelection and a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, it is clear that the Affordable Care Act will continue to be fully implemented. The state faces a November 16, 2012 deadline to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services how the Wisconsin exchange will operate.
Affordable Housing? Do You Need Housing Repair Assistance?
An informative Housing Resource Fair will be held Saturday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. from 2 p.m. at the DPW Field Facility, 3850 N. 35th Street.
Representatives from various organizations will be on hand to answer questions and assist you with home resources such as housing repair or foreclosure help and more on site. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Alderwoman Coggs’ office: [email protected] or (414) 286-2994. Visit NIDC’s website at www.city.milwaukee.gov/NIDC for more info.
How to Buy a Foreclosed Home – 10:30 a.m.
Home Repair Resources 101 – 11:30 a.m.
Facing Foreclosure 101 – 1:00 p.m.
Organizations invited to attend include:
• Habitat For Humanity
• Select Milwaukee
• Safe & Sound
• US Bank
• Harambee Community Center
• City of Milwaukee Health Department
• City of Milwaukee – Department of Neighborhood Services
• Realty Among Friends
• Community Warehouse
• City of Milwaukee ME2 Program
• Social Development Commission
• City of Milwaukee Real Estate
• Housing Resources, Inc.
• Another Hand Foundation
• ACTS Housing
• Career Youth Development
• Rebuilding Together
• Greater Milwaukee
• And others…
Three Milwaukee alderman have teamed up to sponsor the Housing Resource Fair: Alderwoman Milele Coggs and Aldermen Willie Wade and Ashanti Hamilton.
Editorial courtesy of the New York Times
Republican attacks on President Obama’s plans for Medicare are growing more heated and inaccurate by the day. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan made statements last week implying that the Affordable Care Act would eviscerate Medicare when in fact the law should shore up the program’s finances.
Both men have also twisted themselves into knots to distance themselves from previous positions, so that voters can no longer believe anything they say. Last week, both insisted that they would save Medicare by pumping a huge amount of money into the program, a bizarre turnaround for supposed fiscal conservatives out to rein in federal spending.
The likelihood that they would stand by that irresponsible pledge after the election is close to zero. And the likelihood that they would be better able than Democrats to preserve Medicare for the future (through a risky voucher system that may not work well for many beneficiaries) is not much better. THE ALLEGED “RAID ON MEDICARE” A Republican attack ad says that the reform law has “cut” $716 billion from Medicare, with the money used to expand coverage to low-
income people who are currently uninsured. “So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you,” the ad warns.
What the Republicans fail to say is that the budget resolutions crafted by Paul Ryan and approved by the Republican-controlled House retained virtually the same cut in Medicare.
In reality, the $716 billion is not a “cut” in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.
One big chunk of money will be saved by reducing unjustifiably high subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that enroll many beneficiaries at a higher average cost than traditional Medicare. Another will come from reducing the annual increases in federal reimbursements to health care providers — like hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies — to force the notoriously inefficient system to find ways to improve productivity.
And a further chunk will come from fees or taxes imposed on drug makers, device makers and insurers — fees that they can surely afford since expanded coverage for the uninsured will increase their markets and their revenues.
NO HARM TO SENIORS The Republicans imply that the $716 billion in cuts will harm older Americans, but almost none of the savings come from reducing the benefits available for people already on Medicare. But if Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were able to repeal the reform law, as they have pledged to do, that would drive up costs for many seniors — namely those with high prescription drug costs, who are already receiving subsidies under the reform law, and those who are receiving preventive services, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, with no cost sharing.
Mr. Romney argued on Friday that the $716 billion in cuts will harm beneficiaries because those who get discounts or extra benefits in the heavily subsidized Medicare Advantage plans will lose them and because reduced payments to hospitals and other providers could cause some providers to stop accepting Medicare patients.
If he thinks that will be a major problem, Mr. Romney should leave the reform law in place: it has many provisions designed to make the delivery of health care more efficient and cheaper, so that hospitals and others will be better able to survive on smaller payments.
NO BANKRUPTCY LOOMING The Republicans also argue that the reform law will weaken Medicare and that by preventing the cuts and ultimately turning to vouchers they will enhance the program’s solvency. But Medicare is not in danger of going “bankrupt”; the issue is whether the trust fund that pays hospital bills will run out of money in 2024, as now projected, and require the program to live on the annual payroll tax revenues it receives.
The Affordable Care Act helped push back the insolvency date by eight years, so repealing the act would actually bring the trust fund closer to insolvency, perhaps in 2016.
DEFICIT REDUCTION Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan said last week that they would restore the entire $716 billion in cuts by repealing the law. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that repealing the law would raise the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years.
The Republicans gave no clue about how they would pay for restoring the Medicare cuts without increasing the deficit. It is hard to believe that, if faced with the necessity of fashioning a realistic budget, keeping Medicare spending high would be a top priority with a Romney-Ryan administration that also wants to spend very large sums on the military and on tax cuts for wealthy Americans.
Regardless of who wins the election, Medicare spending has to be reined in lest it squeeze out other priorities, like education. It is utterly irresponsible for the Republicans to promise not to trim Medicare spending in their desperate bid for votes.
THE DANGER IN MEDICARE VOUCHERS The reform law would help working-age people on modest incomes buy private policies with government subsidies on new insurance exchanges, starting in 2014. Federal oversight will ensure a reasonably comprehensive benefit package, and competition among the insurers could help keep costs down.
But it is one thing to provide these “premium support” subsidies for uninsured people who cannot get affordable coverage in the costly, dysfunctional markets that serve individuals and their families. It is quite another thing to use a similar strategy for older Americans who have generous coverage through Medicare and who might well end up worse off if their vouchers failed to keep pace with the cost of decent coverage.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan would allow beneficiaries to use vouchers to buy a version of traditional Medicare instead of a private plan, but it seems likely that the Medicare plan would attract the sickest patients, driving up Medicare premiums so that they would be unaffordable for many who wanted traditional coverage. Before disrupting the current Medicare program, it would be wise to see how well premium support worked in the new exchanges.
THE CHOICE This will be an election about big problems, and it will provide a clear choice between contrasting approaches to solve them. In the Medicare arena, the choice is between a Democratic approach that wants to retain Medicare as a guaranteed set of benefits with the government paying its share of the costs even if costs rise, and a Republican approach that wants to limit the government’s spending to a defined level, relying on untested market forces to drive down insurance costs.
The reform law is starting pilot programs to test ways to reduce Medicare costs without cutting benefits. Many health care experts have identified additional ways to shave hundreds of billions of dollars from projected spending over the next decade without harming beneficiaries.
It is much less likely that the Republicans, who have long wanted to privatize Medicare, can achieve these goals.