Home About HealthWatch Annual Conference Coalitions Videos
Vol. 12, No. 07 April 15, 2016

Conference Thanks!!

In this issue...

It's a wrap! This year's 9th Annual HealthWatch Conference, "3 Steps to Health Coverage" was a success! We extend a huge thank you to all our supporters, speakers, and staff! We've shared some of our best photos from the event, and some touching stories about the HealthWatch Wisconsin award recipients!

In other news, we remind you of a few health coverage and tax issues as tax day is almost here – the deadline is Monday, April 18th!

There were final rules and documents issued by both the WI Department of Health Services (DHS) and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this past week. We take a look at the DHS plan to create a new Division called, "Division of Medicaid Services." Also, CMS did some spring cleaning and organized the health insurance "language access requirements" for insurers. They also listed the "Top Non-English Languages" spoken in each state. CMS also finalized a rule expanding mental health parity rules to Medicaid. The addition eliminates a few of the remaining barriers to mental health treatment for patients covered by Managed Care Medicaid or CHIP.

We also share the March BadgerCare Plus enrollment data and an update on new challenges for FoodShare recipients. Also, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day! This day raises awareness of the importance of advance care planning, and encourages discussions with family members and medical professionals about healthcare wishes.

Our Rural Corner discusses new research looking at Urban and Rural healthcare disparities – which produced some interesting findings related to root causes. We also share a video case tip, provider updates, HealthWatch Coalition updates, and some interesting headlines related to health care we thought you might enjoy. Happy reading!

Enjoy this "free" version of the newsletter! Are you a member of HealthWatch Wisconsin? Click on the red button below to start reading the full version of this newsletter! Remember to enter your login and password when prompted. Did you attend the HealthWatch Wisconsin conference? You can use your conference web page login credentials to also read this Update newsletter in the Training Portal!

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TOP STORY: 9th Annual HealthWatch Conference a Success!

THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this year's Annual Conference such a large success! Speakers, Legislators, ABC for Health staff, Award Honorees and their guests, and all of you who attended, all helped make this year's conference one of our best yet!

We wrapped up our annual conference last Thursday after a day and a half of plenary and workshop session. Our "3 Steps to Health Care Coverage" conference began with a series of "back to basics" sessions, covering issues related to BadgerCare Plus, Medicare and Disability programs, and Health Reform's Marketplace. We ended the first day with a celebration of our 2015 HealthWatch Wisconsin Honorees! Read more below on our moving awards ceremony.

On Thursday, April 7, our conference began with a bang, thanks to our panel of legislators! Legislators Sen. Vinehout, Sen. Erpenbach, Rep. Riemer, and Rep. Sargent shared both personal stories and data, making this year's panel one of our most inspirational and powerful! Our conference attendees rated this their favorite session of the whole conference!

The conference continued with plenary sessions on "Surprise Medical Bills" and a "Ten Year Vision" for health care and coverage in Wisconsin. It was then time to break into smaller groups. Attendees loved our TED Talks on Connecting Kids to Coverage, and workshops like "Charity Care Compliance," "Birth Cost Recovery," and "Using the Handbooks."

Conference Webpage Available to Attendees

The conference webpage is active and holds all of the PowerPoints, handouts, and fact sheets that accompanied our event. The webpage is hosted in the HealthWatch Wisconsin Training Portal (www.hww-on-demand.com) under the "HWW Training Content" tab. You will need to login with your credentials to view the materials.

Didn't attend the conference, but think some of the information may have been helpful? If you'd like to purchase a packet of the materials provided to attendees, please contact our HealthWatch Membership Coordinator, Matt Keller, at (608)-261-6939 ext. 218, or by email.

TOP STORY:  HealthWatch Celebrates Annual Award Recipients

On the evening of April 6, HealthWatch Wisconsin presented awards for categories that included: a combined outstanding health care outreach/leadership award; a new lifetime achievement in health care coverage advocacy; and an award for media excellence in Wisconsin.

The awards ceremony was part of the 9th Annual HealthWatch Wisconsin Conference titled, "3 Steps to Health Care Coverage" which convened Wednesday April 6 in Madison at the Madison Masonic Center. The awards recognized exceptional "ground level" advocacy, outreach, and investigative work by our awardees that directly impacts people seeking health care and coverage in Wisconsin. This year's awardees included:

  • Outreach Effort/Elected Official of the Year: Milwaukee County, under the leadership of County Executive Chris Abele; City of Milwaukee, under the leadership of Mayor Tom Barrett.
  • Amy Mendel-Clemens Lifetime Achievement Award: Ken Germanson, for commitment to advocacy and compassion in connecting individuals to health care and coverage.
  • Media Effort of the Year: Bill Lueders, for "Wisconsin FoodShare Fraud Crackdown Questioned"

As the awards ceremony was right on the heels of the spring election, Mayor Barrett and County Executive Abele were not able to attend in person, but instead sent kind words of thanks to HealthWatch Wisconsin and the hundreds of advocates, agencies, and volunteers who worked to connect Milwaukee individuals and families to health care coverage. Mayor Barrett pledged to continue the important work even after the White House "Healthy Communities" challenge was over. County Executive Chris Abele shared that he was honored Milwaukee was being recognized again for its work forging a broad coalition to help people get coverage and live stronger, healthier lives, as "Milwaukee is getting healthier every day!"

HealthWatch WI then invited Dane County Human Services Director Lynn Green to the podium to introduce the namesake of our Lifetime Achievement Award. Having worked closely with Amy Mendel-Clemens for years in Dane County, Lynn spoke of her tireless advocacy on behalf of our state’s underserved, less fortunate. She spoke of Amy's humor, love of family, and love of fine chocolates. In the audience were Amy's husband Steve, daughter Jillian, niece Cathie, and many colleagues of Lynn and Amy. Ken Germanson was then introduced as the inaugural winner of the "Amy Mendel-Clemens Lifetime Achievement Award," and he shared a few remarks. Ken remembered the "early days" of the Milwaukee HealthWatch Coalition and HealthWatch Wisconsin. Ken helped build the local coalition and get more people "to the table," including HMO advocates, county income maintenance workers, and more. He believed access to health care and coverage would only be improved if more people were working together, instead of in their own silos. He was celebrated for his leadership, his insights, and for being above all else, a great teacher and mentor. Ken's wife Ann and co-workers from Community Advocates in Milwaukee were in the audience.

The Media Effort of the Year award went to Bill Lueders for his piece, "WI Crackdown on FoodShare Fraud Questioned." When accepting his plaque, Bill said a few words to the audience, telling how he devoted substantial time looking at data and conducting interviews with public interest attorneys and families to get to the bottom of the "fraud" crackdown - an effort that actually devoted more resources to sniffing out fraud than the actual fraud itself. He encouraged the audience to share the stories from families we see every day with the media, to help put a face on some of the policies and practices, to help shine a light on some of the injustices. He was thankful to his employers, both past and present for allowing him to devote the time he needed to do true investigative work, notably the Center of Investigative Journalism where he was writing when he drafted his award-winning piece. Bill's wife Linda Faulkenstein was in the audience along with friends and supporters. The evening concluded with light refreshments.

TOP STORY:  Tax Season is Here!

 Information to help you report your 2015 health coverage

Tax season isn't over yet, although the deadline is soon approaching! If you haven't done so, remember to file by Monday, April 18th!

This is the second year the health care law is affecting consumers' tax returns.  For some individuals, including their health care coverage in their taxes may simply be a matter of checking an additional box labeled, "Health care, individual responsibility." However, the process may be different for certain consumers depending on what type of coverage they had, and how they paid for it. In the last update we created a step-by-step guide on how to include health insurance in your tax statements - check the archive section of our training portal for more details!

TOP STORY: DHS Submits Plans for "Division of Medicaid Services" 

This week, the WI Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) submitted a plan to the WI Department of Administration to create the "Division of Medicaid Services (DMS)". Originally passed as part of the 2015-17 state budget, the new division is necessary to "streamline and strengthen" DHS’s ability to administer services to families receiving FoodShare, Family Care, and BadgerCare Plus benefits.

According to a press release issued by DHS, the plan allows DHS to more effectively perform operations by removing duplication processes, which saves the department money, allowing dollars to go directly to services, rather than to administrative costs. DHS expects to complete the reorganization by the end of 2016. 

Below is a visual example of some of the "rearranging" envisioned among the Departments. The new "Division of Medicaid Services" would assume duties of select Division of Long Term Care offices as well as the entirety of the Division of Health Care Access and Accountability. The Division of Public Health would start overseeing ADRCs, the Centers for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and additional Long Term Care offices.

TOP STORY: Walker Pushes for Drug Testing FoodShare Recipients

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continues to support drug testing FoodShare recipients. This week, Walker, along with 11 other governors, wrote a letter supporting legislation drafted by Representative Robert Aderholt (Alabama), Chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Rep. Aderholt's legislation would permit states to drug test SNAP recipients.

This isn't the first time Gov. Walker pushed for drug testing. The process was written into the last state budget, but subject to federal approval. Then in July, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Wisconsin against the United States Secretary of Agriculture (Tom Vilsack) to allow Wisconsin to test "able-bodied" adults to determine eligibility for the FoodShare program.

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TOP STORY: New Rule Brings Mental Health Parity to Medicaid

Access to mental health care and substance abuse benefits continues to be an issue even after historic mental health parity legislation was signed into law in 2008. Major reforms were included in the Affordable Care Act, yet barriers remained for the lowest income populations. In a final rule issued March 29, CMS eliminated a remaining barrier to coverage by strengthening access to mental health and substance use services for people enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP (Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus in Wisconsin). This rule aligns Medicaid more closely with private health insurance plan requirements. In a press release issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Secretary Burwell predicts the rule to positively impact over 23 million people enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, Medicaid alternative benefit plans, and CHIP. States will have some flexibility in implementing the new rule, but overall must be in compliance with the new rule by no later than 18 months after March 30th, the rule's publication date in the federal register.

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TOP STORY: CMS is Spring Cleaning:

Guidance on Language Accessibility Requirements Now Centralized

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) released new guidance on March 30, 2016 titled, "Guidance and Population Data for Exchanges, Qualified Health Plan Issuers, and Web-Brokers to Ensure Meaningful Access by Limited-English Proficient (LEP) Speakers." Advocates were hopeful that new regulatory requirements were being issued, but instead, the released served a different purpose: to compile language access requirements from many different earlier rules into one, centralized document.

One new element in the regulation was a listing of the "Top Non-English Languages" spoken in each state, which is both informative, and instructive for insurance issuers needing to comply with language accessibility requirements (reviewed in the guidance).

Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) insurers and web brokers must provide oral and written translation services, including telephonic interpreter services. New for 2017 Open Enrollment, QHP insurers and web brokers who have been registered with an exchange for at least one year must provide taglines indicating the availability of language access services in the top 15 non-English languages in their state which must appear on website content and on documents critical for obtaining insurance coverage or access to health care services.

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TOP STORY: BadgerCare Plus Enrollment Data for March Now Available

On April 11, the WI Department of Health Services released March BadgerCare Plus enrollment data, along with other Medicaid program enrollment updates. Overall, we didn't really see any surprises this month. Below is a summary of some of the trends. To see more data charts, please login.

  • Total BadgerCare enrollment continues to increasing with a generous uptick of about 2,500 people this month. However, total BadgerCare Plus enrollment has yet to recover from last year's dramatic drop of nearly 25,000 people.
  • Enrollment for childless adults has remained pretty steady. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much change from February through March.
  • Children made slight gains for the second month in a row, after a long trend of falling off the program. We speculated last Update newsletter that the enrollment of children may be impacted by the economy and availability of employer-sponsored insurance. We will continue to monitor this trend in particular.
  • Just as childless adults, parents and caretaker enrollment remained steady through March. The data shows the number of childless adults as being nearly equal to the number of parents now enrolled in the program.
  • Enrollment for the Medicaid Purchase Plan has been on the rise since last year. It's encouraging to see growth in this program - still considered one of the more under-utilized for individuals with a disability determination but some ability to work. This month saw an increase in enrollment of a little over 100 new people, smaller gains than last month, but consistent with February's growth.

Bookmark It! Tax Season Resources!

Tax season is confusing for many, and the IRS and Marketplace are not ignoring that fact! They provide a plethora of resources and guides to consumers, we’ve listed some of the most helpful ones below.

And remember, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) may be an option for some individuals and families. More information and resources about the EITC:

Watch This! Immigrant Eligibility for BadgerCare Plus

In our last Update newsletter, we reviewed immigrant eligibility in Health Reform's Marketplace. This week, we review immigrant eligibility for BadgerCare Plus, one of the three main "non-financial eligibility thresholds" along with residency and access to insurance. Enjoy this short, Video Case Tip that talks through categories of immigration status that qualify an individual for coverage.


Each informative video from our Video Case Tip Library includes links to resources or more information!

You can watch these videos at any time—they’re on-demand and available wherever there is an internet connection.

3 C's for CYSHCN! "Competency, Capacity, & Coordination"

Ask a Good Question...

I’m on SSI. Can I receive additional support in Wisconsin if I’m on SSI and have children in the home?

Get a Good Answer...

Login to the training portal to read the answer to this week's question!

Family Voices of Wisconsin Events & Trainings

Family Voices of Wisconsin is a local agency focusing on educating families and providing them with the tools to make informed decisions regarding health care for youth with special health care needs or disabilities. Family Voices is holding two events this spring focusing on training and advocacy. The organization will host these events around the state from February to May, so make sure to attend!

Trainings for Families and Providers:

Did You Know? Now You Know! explains resources and services for children with disabilities and special health care needs from birth through young adulthood. Learn about health insurance and how to best use your benefits, Medicaid, long-term supports and community resources.

What’s After High School? is a broad overview of the transition to adult life for youth with disabilities and special health care needs and includes the following topics: envisioning a youth’s future in the community; the role of schools; long-term supports; transitioning to adult health care; legal options; advocacy; and the fundamentals of self-determination.

Visit Family Voices of Wisconsin or Login to the Training Portal to see more details on these trainings.

Rural Corner: Topics of Interest to Rural WI

Recent Study Sheds Light On Rural and Urban Health Disparities


The County Health Rankings show a split between urban and rural communities. Published annually, the 2016 rankings show rural counties in Wisconsin have higher rates of premature death, smoking, obesity, child poverty and teen births than their urban equivalents. While this is not new, a closer look at the rankings reveal that there is more to the story than just rural vs. urban. The data suggests that rich vs. poor maybe just as important. 

The rankings compare Wisconsin counties on over 30 factors known to affect health against social determinants of health. In general, the wealthiest counties have the best health outcomes and the social determinants of health are making a bigger impact on health outcomes than just the quality of care alone. 

While the rankings are certainly hotly debated, and many argue do not take key variables into account and are not definitive of the overall "health" of a county, they do suggest that the issues plaguing the health of Wisconsin extend well past the healthcare realm and into the very infrastructure of our communities.

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Rural Corner is a regular feature of the Safetyweb Project. ABC for Rural Health, Inc. and a group of community partners and experts secured a federal Rural Health Network grant to support the SafetyWeb Health Benefits Counseling Network. This project will expand an existing collaboration to implement a health benefits counseling network that integrates new technology solutions to measurably improve access to health coverage and services for patients in Polk County Wisconsin. Questions on the Safetyweb Network? Send an email to ABC for Rural Health!

Voices & Views: April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day!

Kate Schilling, GWAAR Elder Law & Advocacy Center, Reprinted with permission from the Public Interest Law Section, Tip of the Month Listserv

April 16th has been denoted as National Healthcare Decisions Day. This day has been recognized since 2008 to help raise nationwide awareness of the importance of advance care planning, to empower people to draft advance planning documents, and to encourage discussions with family members and medical professionals about healthcare wishes. 

The law on advance care planning documents and authority varies by state. In Wisconsin, practitioners typically recommend the following documents:

Power of attorney for financesPower of attorney for healthcareLiving willAuthorization for Final Disposition Advance planning documents can be executed with or without an attorney. While the basic forms are available online for free, an attorney can provide legal advice and counseling regarding the person’s specific circumstances. It is important that the documents are signed in front of two unrelated witnesses, ideally one of those witnesses being a notary public. The power of attorney for finances document is granted certain safeguards under the law when it is notarized. 

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Coalition Corner

For more information email your local HealthWatch Coalition contact below, or email us

Coalition Next Meeting Contact
Chippewa County May 10 Rose Marsh
Dane County May 2 Anna Kaminski
Eau Claire June 2 Lou Kelsey
Milwaukee June 8 Joanna Woodbury
Pierce County May 23 Rebecca Tomasek
Polk County TBD Mike Rust
Tri-County April 26 Connie Raether


Budget Cuts for Therapy Won't Harm Kids, Judge Told, Texas Tribune

For Native Americans, Health Care Is A Long, Hard Road Away, NPR

Florida Agrees to Improve Poor Children's Access to Health Care, Settling Suit, New York Times

Governor Hutchinson: Highway Plan Dead Without Medicaid Expansion, NPR

HHS Report: Dire Warnings of ObamaCare Price Spikes Wrong, The Hill

Milestones On The Path to Population Health, Health Affairs Blog

Tennesee Bill Would Allow Counselors to Deny Services, ABC News

WHO: Better Mental Health Care Means a Better Economy, USA Today

Et Cetera: Memos & Updates


NEW: BadgerCare Plus Handbook, published February 16, 2016 in Release 16-01

Medicaid Eligibility Handbook (MEH), published Nov. 24 in Release 15-03. 

Marketplace Handbook: On October 1, 2015 CMS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight released an updated FFM and FFM-SHOP Enrollment Manual. Effective October 1.

Administrator's Memo 14-04, 2015 IM Consortia Administrative Allocation, has been published to the DHS web

Release 15-01 of the FoodShare Handbook was published

Ops Memos

Ops Memo 16-01: 2016 Federal Poverty Level Changes for ForwardHealth Programs
Ops Memo 16-03: 2016 Wisconsin Shares Copayment Adjustments
Ops Memo 16-04: Changes to Chapter DCF 202 - Child Care Certification
Ops Memo 16-05: FoodShare On-Demand Case Management Tool
Ops Memo 16-06: Policy Clarification for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents Exemption for Members Who Are Unfit for Employment

Administrative Memos:

Admin 16-03: Provision of Services at Local and Tribal Agencies

Provider Memos

2016-10: Reminder: Exhausting Other Health Insurance Sources Before Submitting Nursing Home Claims to Forward Health
2016-11 2016 Procedure Code Changes for Dental Services
2016-12 Changes to Prospective Drug Utilization Review Alerts
2016-13 Reminder of Correct Billling Process for Long-Term Care Services
2016-14: Changes to Pharmacy Policies for Hepatitis C Agents

Tell Us What You Think!

HealthWatch Wisconsin Update readers, we want to hear from you! What do you think of our newsletter? The subject matter? The format? How do you find the material on the HealthWatch Wisconsin Training Site? Do you have any topics you'd like to see or questions you want answered? Please email HealthWatch and let us know!

Support Our Efforts!

Thank you, HealthWatch members, for your support! ABC for Health works hard to ensure that thousands of families in Wisconsin receive the health coverage they need and deserve. What we learn from individuals and families informs the teaching and training we share with HealthWatch Wisconsin members! Keep those families in mind this season and work towards a happier 2016 by supporting ABC for Health in our mission of helping people secure access to health care and coverage. A tax-deductible financial contribution will support direct legal, advocacy, and education services to families in Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2016 ABC for Health, Inc. All rights reserved. No reprint without permission.

HealthWatch Wisconsin is a project of ABC for Health, Inc.
Update Staff:

  • Bobby Peterson, Executive Director
  • Brynne McBride, Chief Operating Officer
  • Matt Keller, HWW Membership Coordinator
  • Shannon Counihan, Student Intern