Friday, December 19, 2014

Our Blog Has Moved!

The WCCF blog has moved! We've upgraded our website (www.wccf.org), and our blog is now integrated right into the site. Please visit us soon at www.wccf.org/blog/!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Study Demonstrates Health Gains in Massachusetts from Health Care Reform


There were at least a couple of positive news items relating to health care reform today. At the top of that list, I would put a new study released today by The Milbank Quarterly, which found significant improvements in health status in Massachusetts following health care reform implementation. The Massachusetts experience illustrates the potential of the federal health care reform to achieve similar gains in other states, although the rocky rollout of the online application process may slow that progress.

The new study is the first to examine the effects on health outcomes of the Massachusetts health care reform law – sometimes referred to as “RomneyCare” – which served as the model for the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Massachusetts law passed in 2006, and researchers found that insurance coverage improved within just one year, and personal doctor visits were up within two years.

The study published today shows that by 2011 the health of Massachusetts citizens was significantly improved, especially among those below 300% of the poverty level who were able to gain health insurance after the law’s enactment. The findings are based on a comprehensive analysis of health status measures in Massachusetts and other New England states before and after 2006. The primary data came from telephone surveys during 2001 through 2011 that asked 345,211 New Englanders questions about their health status and their use of and access to health care services.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Finance Committee Approves Delaying BadgerCare Changes, after Rejecting Dem. Amendments


The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted today for the Special Session bill that delays all the BadgerCare changes until April 1, 2014, and also extends the state’s high risk plan (HIRSP) until that date. The bill was approved by a vote of 11 to 2, with two Democrats voting against the proposal because of the delay in coverage for childless adults. You can read about the debate in the committee on the WisPolitics Budget Blog.

Democrats on the committee offered two amendments, both of which were rejected on party-line votes. The first of those would have increased BadgerCare eligibility for adults to 133% of the poverty level, thereby enabling the state to get full federal funding for coverage of childless adults over the next three years. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau calculated that change would save the state $86.4 million GPR during the current biennium, while covering 85,000 more adults after April 1 than the budget bill and the Governor’s current plan.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advocates and Elected Officials Ask Governor to Keep His BadgerCare Promise to Non-Custodial Adults


For the past few months, Governor Walker has been talking with pride about the fact that the biennial budget bill ensures that Wisconsin’s health insurance system won’t have a gap in coverage for adults below the poverty level. For the first several months of 2014, that won’t be the case if the legislature approves the Governor’s proposal to delay expanding BadgerCare to childless or noncustodial adults below the poverty level ($11,490 for a single individual).

A number of elected officials and advocates sent letters to the Governor last week asking him not to finance the three-month delay in reducing BadgerCare eligibility by also delaying the long-overdue expansion of coverage for adults who don’t have dependent children. One of those letters was sent last Wednesday by Senator Tim Cullen, who said he could find “no humane rationale” for the proposal to delay coverage.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Provides Brief Break in the Food Stamp Debate


New WCCF Analysis Examines the Recent Cuts and Pending Proposals for Deeper Cuts

As we are enjoying Thanksgiving this weekend, millions of people across our bountiful country will be struggling to feed their families and find reasons to be thankful. Many Americans, including almost 900,000 Wisconsinites, recently took a financial hit when their food stamp benefits dropped on November 1. 

What’s even more worrisome for those of us who track nutrition issues is that the House leadership is pushing for another round of substantial cuts in food stamp benefits that could hurt as many as 6 million Americans. The House version of the Farm Bill would cut the Food Stamp program, known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (and in Wisconsin as Food Share), by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years.

A long and heated debate over renewal of the Farm Bill, which funds the food stamp program, now focuses largely on the question of how much deeper the cuts to SNAP are going to be. (A good article in Politico today explains that there are also some divisive issues relating to spending for farm supports, but I don’t think those disagreements are as substantial as the partisan divide relating to SNAP).

A new WCCF paper provides a short summary of the recent cuts and, more importantly, a synopsis of the concerns that nutrition advocates have about the various sorts of cost-saving measures the House has proposed.  Here are a few of those concerns:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Governor’s BadgerCare Plan Reduces State Spending by $20 Million


Finance Committee Schedules Public Hearing and Vote on Monday

The bill to delay changes to BadgerCare and the state high-risk plan (HIRSP), which will be considered in the state Assembly next week, is estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to reduce the state-funded share of Medicaid spending by $23.1 million during the 2013-15 biennium. The estimated net spending reduction drops to $20.3 million GPR if one takes into account higher spending at the Department of Corrections for hospitalization costs, which the budget bill assumed would be shared by the federal government after the state covers more low-income childless adults.

(Note:  Since the proposed legislation doesn't close the $2.8 million hole in the DOC budget, the correct cost saving figure -- at least for now -- is $23.1 million.)    

A copy of the bill was released by the Walker Administration today, and late this afternoon the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released their analysis. You can find both the bill and the LFB analysis here.  The Governor's proposal would delay until April 1, 2014, all of the BadgerCare eligibility changes (including the unsubsidized coverage for children in families over 300% of the poverty level, and the unsubsidized BadgerCare Basic coverage for a small number of childless adults).

In addition, the Joint Finance Committee announced today that it will hold a public hearing on the bill on Monday, Dec. 2, at 11 a.m. in room 411 East.  The committee will take public testimony, which will be limited to two minutes per person. The committee is expected to vote on the bill after the hearing.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Impact of the Seven-Year Freeze of Child Care Payment Rates

WCCF has released a report on the impact of the 7-year freeze of child care payment rates in Wisconsin Shares: Child Care Rates

The freeze has negative implications for the quality and stability of child care programs, the services children are receiving, and the ability of parents to afford child care.

The report includes an analysis of the fiscal impact on child care programs for all counties:
Impact of Freeze Table

Key findings:
•    On average, maximum rates in 2013 cover only 23% of statewide child care slots, rather than 75%, which was the standard for rate-setting prior to the freeze in 2006.

•    Had rates not been frozen, child care providers would now be receiving significantly higher  payments per week, adding up to as much as $3,400 higher per child per year in some counties.

•    DCF has begun to increase payment rates this year, with more scheduled for next year, but the increases will not come close to restoring rates that reflect the current child care market.

Here is a link to a front-page story by Doug Erickson in the Wisconsin State Journal on Nov. 18: Child care centers took a big hit with state rate freeze, study says.