Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Vos leaves out Maternity, Newborn Care, and Prescription Drug coverage from Preexisting Condition Health bill.

I'm going to get to the jaw dropping bottom line just spewed out by Robin Vos and the Assembly Republicans on their bill to cover preexisting condition and mandated coverages. Really, this is alright with conservative voters? WSJ:

Assembly Republicans unveiled late additions Tuesday to a bill protecting insurance coverage for some with pre-existing health conditions if the federal healthcare law is repealed or struck down in court ... the bill will not include Evers' other request: that insurers be required to cover a list of essential health benefits such as maternity or newborn care or prescription drugs. 

Vos: (Those benefits) "are not part of what we talked about. Unfortunately if people want to try to throw other things into the mix to stop the deal from happening, I think that's the cynicism that people do not want in politics."

Got that, it's those cynical and supposed political "other things," like maternity and newborn care, that will "stop the deal"? Not so "pro-life" after all.

Well if it's not important, then let's remove maternity, newborn care and prescription drugs coverage from those legislators government provided health care benefits, alright? 

Remember, Vos and his plundering Republican pirates also didn't think to originally include the following without a huge push by Gov. Evers...
Changes to the Assembly GOP bill would add to state law … prohibitions on insurers imposing lifetime or annual limits on coverage for people with serious health conditions. That's one of two key provisions Evers said the measure needs to include for him to support it.
But our complicated Rube Goldberg health insurance nightmare prevents the government from helping...
...people on private self-insured health plans, which a UW-Madison expert estimates is about 1.5 million Wisconsinites. That's because such plans cannot be regulated under state law. "For people that are self-insured, the state of Wisconsin has no control over them whatsoever," Vos said.
Note; Universal health care, or Medicare for all, would make every doctor your doctor, every hospital your hospital; with no surprise bills, no paperwork, no co-pays or deductibles. Although I'm not against a very small yearly premium of $50 to $100 for higher income earners so we can afford to include dental, hearing and vision. 
By at least one measure ... about 2.4 million Wisconsinites (have a preexisting condition).
UPDATE: Journal Sentinel:

Ideology vs Will it Work? It won't work: JS looked at the plan from a more practical view point, will it work? No it won't:
(It) would result in much higher premiums and fewer insurance companies selling insurance, said Scott Harrington, a professor of health care management and insurance and risk management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“You will end up with an extremely unbalanced risk pool, where the bulk of people who are willing to buy coverage in the individual market would be relatively less healthy than average — and that would push up premiums dramatically. So, it might sound well in principal, and people probably will say it is great to do this, but in reality, if the law is declared unconstitutional and nothing is done at the federal level, this would be a Band-Aid at best.”
One more thing...

That’s what happened in states such as Kentucky and Washington that required insurers to cover pre-existing conditions before the Affordable Care Act. Leanne Gassaway, senior vice president of state affairs for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the largest trade group for health insurers, was more blunt: “Their market was a complete disaster before the Affordable Care Act.”

Monday, January 21, 2019

Not kidding; Wisconsin Republicans against Clean Drinking Water!!!

Here's the scoop, and another strike against Scott Walker's Legacy:
WPR: The overarching question is whether a state law passed in 2011, known as Act 21, which "states agencies like the DNR can't create regulations, rules or other requirements for permitees or those seeking permits unless they're specifically laid out in state statute," overrules a prior state Supreme Court action known as the Lake Beulah decision issued in 2011 … that says the DNR was able to consider cumulative impacts on groundwater when considering new high-capacity well applications.
Walker passed Act 21, so the Department of Natural Resources can't regulate...our natural resources?

This is what Republicans call balancing business interests against the cost of saving our drinking water. Here's the reality; you can't "balance" acceptable pollution levels, that's an insane concept.  

Oh, it gets worse. Walker's twisted version of the DNR can't prevent manure-contaminated water: 
1. Attorneys for the DNR have argued the law overrules the previous Supreme Court decision and therefore, the agency doesn't have authority to limit the number of cows on the Kinnard Farms properties or require groundwater monitoring wells to measure whether manure from the farm is leaching into groundwater.

2. Similarly, the DNR has argued Act 21 bars them from considering cumulative impacts for the high-capacity wells sought by farmers in the Central Sands region.

We're in real trouble if our activist conservative State Supreme court decides against any and all oversight of our drinking water. Interestingly, they're in no hurry:
Justices from the state's high court haven’t said whether they'll take up the cases.

Wis Republicans says, "make sure renewable's are reliable and affordable"...uh, which they are already!!!

Unlike the few strong Democratic legislators who's voices are often ignored by the press, Gov. Evers will not suffer that same fate. 

And Republicans are panicking. Look how fast they tried to reframe the idea of middle-class tax cuts and protections for preexisting conditions. Same old out-dated policies. Only now the public will see how stagnant and empty their rhetoric has been for 8 years.

Alternative Energy Ignorance Exposed: Thankfully, you can't hide stupid. Check out what one arrogant Republican legislator said about the prospects of turning Wisconsin into a job-creating renewable energy leader:
1922 cover. Not exactly a new idea
At the annual conference held by the group RENEW Wisconsin, (a) panel following Evers' remarks, Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R- New Berlin) said he wants to make sure electricity generated from renewables is reliable and affordable, and expansion is driven by the free market.
Wow, where do I start? It's hard to believe anyone could be this out of touch. "Making sure" is code for delaying any change, a tactic that assumes we just don't know enough about wind and solar energy yet (see at bottom what we do know, and what we're missing).

 Let's clear up a few easy points:

1. Wind is now cheaper to produce than coal, so it's affordable, okay? This is not a secret.

2. Try reading a newspaper sometime. Surprise, many big energy companies are committed and "driven," having promised a massive conversion to solar and wind (they don't have to ship fuel or pay for it). Hello?

3. Reliable? Would we be importing unreliable clean energy from outside Wisconsin? Why not be someone else's source of reliable energy by producing it here? And the use of recycled batteries to store energy for later use has already made an impact.

Time to bring in "Alternative Legislators" pushing Alternative Energy: The sad reality of gerrymandering makes it almost impossible to change Wisconsin's direction on energy...or anything for that matter. We'll be stuck in this same place for years, even decades trying to catch up.

So let's be clear about what Wisconsin Republicans are choosing to take a pass on...
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ #1 and #2 fastest growing jobs in the U.S. are solar panel installers and wind turbine technicians. These jobs are good, solid middle class jobs with annual salaries pushing close to six-figures. Beyond construction, the plants (particularly wind farms, with their many moving parts) offer good jobs in the long term.

Not only do wind and solar power bring jobs, they increase the local tax base for revenue-starved public schools and other districts. For example, Nolan County in Texas has seen its tax base increase almost eight fold to nearly $3 billion dollars since the West Texas wind rush began.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A little late, but here's the more PC version of "Baby its Cold Outside!"

I just discovered this video sent to me by my brother just before Christmas. Can we say we've now ended the ridiculous debate over this controversial song, please?

Taking Stock of Trump!!!

Vos bypasses Medicaid Expansion/Jobs/New State Revenues to protect Insurer Profits!!!

Fulfilling campaign promises is so important to Republicans that they would shut the government down to keep one.

Yet when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to do the same thing, promising to expand Medicaid, he's accused of trying to "score political points?" And that's what snarky Republican Rep. Robin Vos said about Evers proposal.

Medicaid Expansion No Brainer: WPT's Here and Now presented a few important points, including the not so surprising admission by public servant Vos that he's out to protect insurance profits, and not provide health care to constituents.

First, here's what Gov. Evers sees as a win-win for Wisconsinites and the economy with Medicaid Expansion. The math is inescapable, and another revealing horror from Scott Walker's "legacy:"

Yes, Vos and Sen. Scott Fitzgerald walked away from $1 billion because government would just spend, spend, spend...on roads, schools, broadband expansion, pay of debt, etc.??!!!

In fact, Evers is so sure about Medicaid Expansion, that he's taking it directly to Republican rural voters who have been ignored by Walker and the legislature for years, under the guise of "small government." The days of rural resentment might be over.
Tony Evers: If Republican legislators who come from small town Wisconsin that understand that the success of those small town hospitals and clinics depend upon having access to greater resources, they may change their mind. So we’re going to take this directly to the people of Wisconsin in a respectful way.

Uh-oh, Wrong Argument Robin...: For Vos, it's not about helping and strengthening rural communities and farmers, nope, it's about protecting those city slicker insurers.

Vos claims insurers will be forced to pay into Medicaid Expansion, and then increase insurance rates on those buying policies in the private sector, something I can't confirm after extensive research (but I did find job creation and higher state revenues-shown later below).

Still, and ironically, those terrible "higher insurance premiums" Vos is complaining about, well they're a major funding source for the Republicans much touted "high risk pools." Seriously? Good luck selling that plan now:
Robin Vos: Every person that’s on BadgerCare is subsidized by somebody who’s in the private insurance market. So the more people that we take from the private insurance market to put into the public market, the higher the rates are going to go for those people who have private sector insurance. So granted, there might be a short one-time savings for the state, but that is more than offset by the cost in the private sector for what they have to pay to subsidize those people who are already on BadgerCare.
Wisconsin's Far Right Legislature nothing like other Red States: Vos is also wildly wrong about "a short one-time savings for the state." In fact, expansion pays for itself and so much more, and research proves it:
Forbes: Republican-leaning states like Montana have used the economic argument to help win over skeptics ... which expanded Medicaid in 2016 to more than 90,000 people. A study out this month from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research shows the expansion of Medicaid generates a half-billion dollars a year in healthcare spending. Of that, 70%, or $350 million to $400 million, is “new money circulating in Montana’s economy.”
The gerrymandered Republican majority at the Capitol will now have to argue against real jobs and economic numbers. Other red states are also moving forward:
The Montana report comes as Missouri, Nebraska, Idaho and Utah are working to put Medicaid expansion on this November’s general election ballot and as legislatures in other states like Virginia and Utah are moving Medicaid expansion bills forward.

It’s new money into the economy,” University of Montana’s Bryce Ward, the study’s author, said of Medicaid expansion in an interview. “In 2020, the state has to pay its full 10% share, but you get the 90% from taxpayers in other states.”

“Medicaid expansion has a positive fiscal impact on the state budget. Medicaid expansion reduces state spending in some areas (e.g., traditional Medicaid). It also increases economic activity and, as such, increases state revenue,Ward and fellow researcher Brandon Bridge wrote in their University of Montana study. “Combined, the savings and increased revenues are sufficient to more than cover the Montana’s share of Medicaid expansion costs (10% in 2020 and beyond).”

Last year, the University of Michigan said “ripple effects” from Medicaid expansion created more than 30,000 new jobs, including 85% in the private sector.

“We are employing more people,” Ward, of the University of Montana, said of Medicaid expansion. “You can see it.”

Friday, January 18, 2019

Desperate GOP Lame Duck Laws Struck Down: Early Voting and Politician Twitter Block!!!

Wisconsin's hard core Republican extremist legislature needs a little continuing education in civics and constitutional law.

Power didn't just corrupt, it also made Republicans forget who they were elected to serve. Oh, and gerrymandering also made it impossible for Republicans to claim the voters chose them when in fact it was the other way around.

The GOP's lame duck legislation is coming apart at the seams in the courts. 

And Scott Walker's legacy? Well, he signed off on this illegal stuff, and he'll be remembered for it:  

It's a big victory for now Attorney General Josh Kaul, who at the time, represented One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund. Is there any question at this point Republicans don't want people to vote, or even believe in the idea of elections themselves? 

Moving swiftly, a federal judge struck down limits on early voting that Republican lawmakers approved last month in a lame-duck session. In a five-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Peterson concluded the new limits on early voting are invalid because they so closely mirror ones he struck down as unconstitutional in 2016. His decision also threw out parts of the lame-duck laws affecting IDs and other credentials that can be used for voting.

"This is not a close question: the three challenged provisions are clearly inconsistent with the (2016) injunctions that the court has issued in this case," Peterson wrote. Peterson also ruled that temporary voting credentials will be valid for 180 days instead of 60 days, as Republican lawmakers wanted. The credentials are given to people who have difficulty getting state ID cards because they lack birth certificates or other documents. Peterson's ruling also requires the state to allow students to use expired college IDs to vote. Republican lawmakers wanted college IDs to be accepted only if they had not expired.

No Brainer First Amendment Violation: A judge overturned a Twitter block by 3 Republicans legislators. Thanks to Trump, twitter accounts by politicians are now public and subject to the First Amendment. Irony? 

Federal District Judge William Conley ruled that three Wisconsin state legislators - Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and former Republican Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum - violated the free speech rights of a liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, when the lawmakers blocked the group from their respective Twitter feeds.

Scot Ross, the group's executive director, called the decision a victory for "open, transparent and accountable government. Elected officials can’t exclude people from public forums just because they don’t agree with their political views or don’t want to hear what they may have to say," Ross said in an email.

Conley wrote that the case presented a "novel question of law for this court: is the interactive portion of a government official’s Twitter account a designated public forum?
While there is no settled law on whether a government actor’s social media account is a designated public forum, two federal district courts have now held that government officials’ social media accounts can constitute public forums," Conley wrote, adding that the lawmakers presented no reason for blocking One Wisconsin Now, "except by vague innuendo or by claiming that they must have had a valid reason but can no longer remember why they did so."

Conley's ruling follows a decision from a federal judge in New York, who in May said President Donald Trump is not permitted under the U.S. Constitution to block people from his Twitter feed. In that case, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, determined that Trump's Twitter account is considered a "public forum" under the Constitution because it is an interactive space where Twitter users can dialogue directly with him and other users. She also found that by blocking people from it, Trump was discriminating against them based on their viewpoint.

Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty loves short term Junk Insurance policies, and a Desperate Public!!!

The Cap Times column, State Debate, pointed me to an article that was so nonsensical, that I just had to pass it along.

This represents the brain trust of right wing "fellows" at the lawsuit mill Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL). WILL has been furiously raising funds in preparation to challenge almost everything Gov. Evers and AG Josh Kaul will put forward as policy.

First up, Covering Preexisting Conditions: Perhaps WILL Research Director Will Flanders thought most readers would just give up and default to his bigger point about gladly buying junk insurance policies if he just wrote a bunch of words that sounded pretty darn official.

Let's look at the "institutes" case for short term junk insurance policies, a big part in Trump's health care reform plan. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers isn't buying into this horrific scheme:
Among the executive orders signed by Governor Tony Evers in his first week was a directive for DHS and DATCP to “provide recommendations on how to…. Protect against attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act marketplace with short term plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements...” 
Flanders went on to explain why short term plans are nothing more than junk insurance policies that don't cover preexisting conditions:
Short-Term Limited Duration (STLD) healthcare plans were originally designed as a stop-gap measure for people who would be lacking insurance for (appropriately enough) a short time …Critically, such plans were exempted from many of the mandates of the ACA, including language on preexisting conditions...

Down the Rabbit Hole: To be clear, if you get sick while on a short term insurance plan, you are now strapped with a preexisting condition, and you can't get another short term policy. Again, Evers is against short term junk plans. 

But Flanders doesn't get that. In an incomprehensible word salad explanation, Flanders somehow ended up blaming Evers for "exacerbating the problem? I know, you've got to read it to believe it:
One result of placing greater limitations on such plans is that people may be left entirely without coverage options if they get sick while on a STLD … individuals who enroll in short term plans and get sick during that plan may not have coverage options when those plans come to an end. This serves to exacerbate the problem of uninsured that people like Evers purport to be so concerned about. 
Junk Insurance, a Necessary Evil: But wait, Flanders isn't done embarrassing himself. He still wants these junk policies in Wisconsin because...the "public is desperate." Of course they are, isn't that how we want people to feel? You can't make this sick stuff up:  
The second, and perhaps even more critical, problem is that limiting the time frame of these plans removes a viable healthcare option for Wisconsinites who may be struggling to afford insurance coverage. Short term plans represent a viable alternative for a public desperate for affordable options.

Rather than being concerned about protecting the viability of the ACA, let’s consider the healthcare needs of Wisconsin’s low- and middle income families, who perhaps don’t want or cannot afford Obamacare plans.
Note: Evers and Democrats aren't simply "protecting the viability of the ACA" for political reasons, they're trying to give everyone affordable access to health care short of universal care.  

Let's hope Evers tells the insurance commissioner and specifically Cari Lee at enforcement, to examine and negotiate lower rates in Wisconsin: 
Wisconsin’s’ average insurance premiums are among the highest in the nation in both urban and rural parts of the state.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Scott Walker's really Bad Twitter Adventure...

Trump has successfully preserved his base largely on his use of twitter. So much so, that he knows they aren't going anywhere as long as he keeps it up.

Trump Wanna-be Scott Walker Dabbling...: If it worked for Trump, Walker's nope dope, twitter might be his ticket to the presidency. Well, not if he keeps this up. In just one week, Walker's tweets hit the sh** fan.

Let's start with Walker Tweet Wreck #1- AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of all people couldn't help but reply to Walker's completely wrong tax lesson to a 5th grade class that he thought was profound:

Walker Tweet Wreck #2-Lie: Walker is moving from deceptive misleading statements to flat out lying, because it worked for Trump:

Walker Tweet Wreck #3-Make things Up: The Walker Authority laughingly kept saying they were returning control back to the taxpayers, when in fact Walker Republicans picked the pocket of taxpayers and threw their hard earned money out like paper towels after a hurricane to corporate special interested statewide. In turn, they had to repeal local control statewide to keep elected officials from blocking favored businesses from plundering their communities. This blog post is just a sample:

Tell me if Walker "put taxpayers back in charge" after reading Reporter Matthew DeFour nice summary showing us how Walker stole it away from local governments. And after taxpayers elected Tony Evers as Governor, did Walker take away or help the new governor fulfill the promises he made to the taxpayers?

Since consolidating control of state government in 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature have enacted a series of laws that upend a bedrock of their party’s conservatism: the principle of local control. The GOP has wrested from local government’s control of cellphone tower siting, shoreland zoning restrictions, landlord-tenant regulations, public employee residency requirements, family medical leave rules for private companies and large soft drink bans, among other things. It instituted a statewide voucher program opposed by many school boards and has kept tight property tax caps on school districts and municipalities. The latest and perhaps most disconcerting example for many local officials is a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, that would limit a municipality’s ability to regulate certain aspects of frac sand mining operations, such as blasting, damage to highways, and air and water quality.

“Many (municipal leaders) will tell you how terrible it is and how it’s the worst they’ve ever seen,” said Dan Thompson, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. UW-Madison political science professor emeritus Dennis Dresang said, “What we see from the tea party types and the radical right types is, ‘I've got an idea, I've got an agenda, and it really ought to apply across the board."
Walker Tweet Wreck #4-Imagine thinking Socialism Works? The US is a mix of both capitalism and socialism, not one or the other. Republicans love government when it works for business, but not so much for the people. Walker claims people know how to spend their money better...really? When have we ever spent our personal cash on road repair, school construction, building codes, environmental protection, energy tech, food inspections, living in outer space...? Thankfully, Jake's Wisconsin Funhouse responded:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Grothman wants to stiff out-of-work Federal Employees used as hostages by Trump for backpay.

I'm watching in stunned horror how this government shutdown is ruthlessly dismissing federal workers financial responsibilities, destabilizing their lives, families, and living arrangements.

I asked my Trumpian friend in Milwaukee; "What do you think about Fed workers and families with rent, mortgage and car payments, not being able to pay them because of shutdown?" 

This was his answer:
"You know why you and all the other people aren't getting paid.. you know who is getting paid? Illegals 5500 a month they don't miss a check how do you feel about that?"
His answer, Trump's behavior and the whole Republican Party's disinterest, have finally brought clarity to the hard truth; That one grand moment where things will get so bad conservatives will finally see the light...will never happen. There is no misunderstanding their message.

Full disclosure, I work part-time for the federal government, mostly just to stay busy. My friend echoed the same insult that other Trumpian losers are saying to all dedicated public servants making a living...
"Find a different job and not one from the government. There are jobs out there that pay you more but let's be honest none like you want to work at."
Like that? It's like saying government jobs don't mean anything. And that Republican voters know what I and every other government workers should be doing. Yet everything would be so much better with an open free market? Than why the "government" tariffs for protecting intellectual property?

Earlier moments came and went...
1. They were willing to throw 20 to 30 million people off insurance repealing the ACA.

2. They are willing to do nothing at all about the 40,000 gun deaths a year.

3. They are willing to let tens of thousands of people die from preventable diseases a year so cars and businesses pollute more. 
And now captive federal workers are in Trump's crosshairs, just so he can prove how a tough a negotiator and business man he can be. This is a guy who's stiffed his own contractors just to prove he can do it and save a little money. And now its government labors turn.

No, even typically Republican voters in Rep. Glen Grothman's district won't blink an eye at his opposition to federal employee back pay. Seriously, Grothman's brutal backhand to everyday working stiffs might have been unthinkable once, could have even gotten him some bad press. Not anymore. From Upfront with Mike Gousha:
Grothman: "The bill also guarantees pay to the federal employees not working. Now I understand they went through a lot, but it creates the unusual situation given that every employee has expenses, that the employees who are working are not as in good a position as the employees laid off. Which makes no sense at all."

Gousha: "If you are not working, and through no fault of their own, but they still have a mortgage payment, a student loan payment, bills to pay, is it fair to them to not be insured back pay?

Grothman: "It is never...fair. But I think, if you work out some kind of compromise and say, look, you are not working for three months, we will give you 60 or 70 percent of your pay, but to give you 100 percent of your pay if you do not work for 3 or 4 months, seems a little bit not right.

Gousha: "You feel like you are not being empathetic enough?"

Grothman: "I said we could compromise and pay them 50 percent of their pay for not working. I suppose I could vote for that as part of a compromise. A lot of oth
er people out there remember get laid off and they don't get anything, so..."

Hospital Price Transparency Mind Boggling, Confusing, and proves Private Health Care is a Disaster!!!

Now that Paul Ryan is no longer peddling his supposed "patient centered" health care plan, we will no longer be insulted by his dumb contradictory statements like the quote below. Think about it, an insurance based system...without empowering insurance companies...really?:

“Obamacare should be replaced with patient-centered reforms that empower individuals and their doctors, not bureaucrats and insurance companies.” -Ryan
Hospitals now Posting insanely Confusing Health Care Costs: Ryan's free market solution is depended on a lot of things; tax credits, business friendly freedoms, expensive high risk pools, and most importantly, shopping around and comparing prices, which in turn supposedly creates competition to lower prices:
Ryan’s plan would provide tax credits based on age instead of income, encourage the sale of health insurance across state lines and reestablish high-risk pools for people with complex medical conditions.

Note: High risk pools are actually government run and funded partially by taxpayers, aided by sky high customer premiums and deductibles, some limits, and they usually end up in the red. What a deal.  

What was obvious from the start was how disconnected politicians like Ryan and Trump were from the horrors and complexities of our real health care system. Now with Trump in charge, we're seeing just how incompetent the Republicans solution is, and how it doesn't come close to being a consumer product:
On Jan. 1, hospitals began complying with a Trump administration order to post list prices for all their services, theoretically offering consumers transparency and choice and forcing health care providers into price competition. It’s turning into a fiasco.

Jeanne Pinder, the founder and chief executive of Clear Health Costs, a consumer health research organization said, “The posted prices are fanciful, inflated, difficult to decode and inconsistent, so it’s hard to see how an average person would find them useful.” The data, posted online in spreadsheets for thousands of procedures, is incomprehensible and unusable by patients — a hodgepodge of numbers and technical medical terms, displayed in formats that vary from hospital to hospital. It is nearly impossible for consumers to compare prices for the same service at different hospitals because no two hospitals seem to describe services in the same way. Nor can consumers divine how much they will have to pay out of pocket.

Here's one persons revealing take on the new "free market" based posted prices that supposedly will help her shop? 
“This is gibberish, totally meaningless, a foreign language to me,” said Sara Stovall, 41, of Charlottesville, Va., after looking at price lists for hospitals in her area. She reviewed the price lists for Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and for University Hospital, each of which has more than 16,000 items.

“I can’t imagine how I would go about making this useful,” Ms. Stovall said on Sunday. “I wouldn’t know how to find my procedure. I wouldn’t know what services
might be rolled up with my procedure. And I would not know the price to me after health insurance.”
 Here's an example:

Add to this list confusing list what your insurance company is contracted to pay...oh wait, you can't:
It doesn't show the prices that insurance plans negotiate for the patients that they cover. 
Add to this those surprising medical bills from out of network doctors who helped treat your conditon. California is attempting to solve that problem, but again, this is a free market voluntary thing:
Hospitals' solution to surprise out-of-network bills: Make physicians go in-network: Some hospitals have turned to a bold strategy to prevent patients from receiving surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers: requiring in-hospital physicians to contract with the same insurers as the hospital.
Which brings me to a few conclusions:
1. Posting hospital prices only works under a universal health care pricing system, where the nation set a max price for treatment, and lets the private sector compete with lower prices if they choose.

2. Take all the new innovations for saving health care costs now under the ACA, and make it a part of Medicare for all or universal health care.
But the conservative magical thinking that the private sector won't rip you off or will be forced to compete is ridiculous. Here are few more jaw dropping thoughts:
1. The Trump administration did not define “standard charges.” In later guidance, it said the format was “the hospital’s choice.” “Without a standard definition, patients cannot make accurate comparisons between hospitals,” said Herb B. Kuhn, the president of the Missouri Hospital Association.

The Trump administration has not said how it plans to enforce it. Federal officials have asked the public to suggest “enforcement mechanisms.”
2. Even while complying with the new requirement, many hospitals have posted disclaimers warning consumers not to rely on the data.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, says that it “does not warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness” of the charges listed on its website.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Walker Legacy: ATC Transmission lines Importing Wind Energy!!!

Cap Times's Editor Dave Zweifel wrote an opinion today in opposition to ATC's plan for a transmission line connecting green wind energy in Iowa to Middleton, saying we don't need the extra power anymore. That's true, but he never brought up the fact that it was clean energy. Why? And when is Wisconsin supposed to transition to clean energy without first importing it?

To be clear, I hate ATC's above ground transmission lines. I've always thought policy should have at least dictated that in beautifully scenic areas, like parts of southwest Wisconsin, underground lines would be the only available option. But we've never had that state policy debate. Why?  

Is this also part of Scott Walker's legacy? Yes. Think about it; Walker ignored green energy production in Wisconsin for 8 years, and instead stuck with fossil fuels. Walker pushed frack sand mining of all things, because digging up Wisconsin's country side is preferable to transmission lines? 

Republican legislators delayed and "debated" the supposed horrors of green energy's "noise" and "destructive" use of valuable agricultural land for solar and wind. Taking a pass on our energy future, Republicans made Wisconsin dependent on other states, and they're loving it. There's a reason why we pay more for energy than most every other state in the country. 

So instead of shorter ATC transmission lines connecting us to Wisconsin's own wind or solar farms, making us more independent, we have to import it from Iowa with unsightly ATC transmission lines:
MISO, the Indiana-based Midcontinent Independent System Operator, has identified the project as one of 17 transmission proposals designed to improve the reliability of the electric grid, provide lower-cost power to the Midwest and expand the infrastructure to renewable energy sources. “The cost of wind energy has declined dramatically in the past decade, and wind is now the least expensive source of new electricity generation in America,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. “We need to build the infrastructure that connects wind-produced electricity with customers.”

Delays already have pushed back the possible completion date, if approved, from 2020 to 2023.

Proof Walker and Republicans to Blame: Better late than never? We wouldn't be having this discussion if not for Walker, Vos, and Fitzgerald's opposition to the climate related alternative energy movement and ATC's campaign contributions. It's all just a big hoax anyway, right? 
Meanwhile, Alliant Energy, of Madison, is building a 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant and a two-megawatt solar field in Beloit, and at least two wind farms are being developed in the state, so a transmission line bringing in more power is not needed, the organization says.

There is support for clean energy...
Chris Kunkle, regional policy manager for Wind on the Wires, a St. Paul-based organization that promotes renewable energy (said), "These projects are vital to ensuring we can transition our energy system to cleaner energy.
Walker Legacy will Haunt us for Decades: While ignoring actual state debt by claiming Wisconsin has a $500 million budgetary surplus, Republicans want voters to believe that spending cuts to education, infrastructure improvements, environmental protections, state parks, joking about green energy, and stopping progress is something we should celebrate as fiscally responsible.

For now, ATC's sprawling transmission lines will spread like duck tape across our aging energy infrastructure.    

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Walker's Legacy? Polluted Drinking Water!

Mystery solved? I think we've come a little bit closer figuring out why farmers and rural voters like anti-government Republicans, even at the risk of their lives.

It's your Drinking Water...? Even when rural sources of drinking water are threatened with high levels of cancer-causing contamination, voters there still question the need for regulation or the need to know there's even a problem:
A survey of private wells in southwestern Wisconsin found some 42 percent of 301 randomly selected wells tested in Iowa, Grant and Lafayette counties exceed federal health standards for bacteria that can come from animal or human waste, or for a toxic fertilizer residue. “The shallow bedrock and thin soils in southwest Wisconsin make this a vulnerable setting from the standpoint of groundwater contamination.” 
But some "farmers are wary of being unfairly blamed for pollution." Well, do you see anyone else around, seriously? Maybe it's the cost of replacing these...
It’s possible that faulty septic systems are causing some portion of the contamination, or that wells need to be upgraded.

Researchers plan to determine if manure from dairy or swine operations or faulty septic systems are the main culprit in tainted drinking water in southwest Wisconsin. The first scientific study of drinking water quality there found that four out of 10 wells were contaminated by dangerous bacteria or chemicals. If the presence of the bacteria is confirmed, Abbott said residents should stop drinking their water until they can have their well disinfected.
Walker's Water Pollution Legacy Exposed: I suppose you could say Scott Walker saved rural areas some money thanks to special interest groups, but at what cost? In what can be described as mindbogglingly irresponsible, Walker let the problem fester out of control. He only relented in the last few months as governor, well after the fact and after he had no choice:
JS: In the east, Kewaunee and Door counties have long had problems with contaminated drinking water. After years of pressure from residents and the federal government, Walker approved the new manure standards. But the Wisconsin Dairy Business Association fought to narrow the rule, and it was limited to the 15 eastern counties. State geologist Ken Bradbury said enough was known about conditions in the southwest part of the state to justify applying the manure regulations there, too.
Not only is this an example of bad governing (making the case that government is bad), but look at what Walker did to sabotage efforts to save peoples drinking water. You can't make this stuff up:
The regulations aren’t yet being enforced because required technical standards weren’t included in the rule approved in 2018 by the Natural Resources Board and Gov. Scott Walker after two years of work by the DNR ... It’s unlikely the technical standards will be written and approved in less than 18 to 24 months, said Lacey Cochart, director of DATCP’s bureau of land and water.
And don't look to the DNR, or what's left of it, because politics, not science is their thing now:
Walker’s DNR declined to participate in the three-county study, said Scott Laeser, water program director for the nonprofit Clean Wisconsin, which helped coordinate funding. A DNR spokesman declined to comment.