Health care costs are very much on people’s minds.
As I travel our Senate District, I hear concerns about cost - from a farmer paying $1900 a month for just his own health insurance, from local county board members worried about rising employee health costs, from union members worried about losing health benefits, from small business owners with double digit increases in health costs.
Why are health care costs so high? As compared to other countries, higher prices for drugs, doctor and hospital care make all of us pay more for health insurance. Did you know an MRI scan in the U.S. costs eight times more than a similar scan in Britain?
“I was new in town,” the Hixton man told me. “I hadn’t lived here very long and someone asked if I would volunteer.”
“I go out there every week,” the woman from Alma Center shared. “I have been teaching men how to read.”
A group of citizens gathered around me at the fair. Many of them were volunteering to help men mend their lives and stay out of prison. They wanted to tell me stories of their work.
Wisconsin lost a great leader in the passing of Secretary Rod Nilsestuen. His vision will continue to lead Wisconsin agriculture for many years to come.
Leading the state through the low milk prices and whole herd sales of the early part of this decade, Rod created a vision for agriculture that mirrored the strengths of our great state.
Under his leadership Wisconsin agriculture reversed its decline. By creating policies that encouraged growth, arrived at through diverse consensus and conducting business through a transparent public process, Rod created an environment where Wisconsin agriculture thrived.
Do you know someone who has been without health insurance because they have pre-existing conditions? A new health insurance option may be able to help.
Enrollment for the new “HIRSP Federal Plan” opened last week. This plan is open to Wisconsin citizens who have a pre-existing condition and have been without health insurance for six months.
Wisconsin received $73 million dollars from the federal government to provide a health insurance option to help those facing the worst situation - serious health conditions with no health insurance. The HIRSP Federal Plan offers very reasonable rates for comprehensive health insurance. For example, a person age 60 and over who chooses the highest deductible - $3,500 - will pay $398 a month. A person under 25 who chooses the lowest deductible - $500 - will pay $214 a month.
Changes are coming. That phrase will usually get a person’s attention. Well, changes are coming to the region of our state with the 715 area code. And the changes mean dialing all ten numbers when calling someone in that area.
For many of us, dialing all ten numbers of someone’s phone number in the 715 area code is standard because we are calling long distance. But now for those in the 715 area code, all local calls will require dialing all ten numbers.
The reason for the change is the 715 area code is running out of new phone numbers.
“I’ll tell you how to save taxpayers’ money,” the man told me. “Get rid of waste and fraud. That ought to help!”
This past week the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau reported on just such efforts.
Three years ago I voted to pass a law creating the Fraud, Waste, and Mismanagement Hotline. Operational since April of 2008, the hotline was established to encourage the public, government employees and contractors to report suspected fraud, waste, mismanagement and other improper activities happening within state government. Calls into the hotline’s toll free number, 1-877-FRAUD-17, are managed by a Certified Fraud Examiner.
“I never thought I’d be disabled,” the man at the parade told me. “I was a diesel truck driver. But a split second accident and 37 surgeries later here I am.”
An axle crushed his leg.
Last week I met a fellow whose foot had been run over by a cement truck. Like me, he was hobbling around the dairy breakfast on crutches. “You never know when accidents are going to happen.” he said.
“I sent my grandson out to cut some lettuce,” the woman told me. “He came back with beet tops. Then I knew the garden really needed to be weeded.”
The family put the beet tops to good use and the beets were no worse for the wear.
As I drive through our Senate District it seems like every one has a garden. The wet weather has made the plants flourish. And even though finishing the hay crop has been a challenge, pulling weeds is a lot easier, if you don’t mind the mud.
June is Dairy Month. All across our district folks are getting up early Saturday morning and heading to an area farm for breakfast. Sponsored by each county’s Dairy Promotion Committee, the Dairy Breakfast is an opportunity for city and country people to meet, share food and fellowship and learn more about a neighbor’s dairy operation.
Farm families selected to host a county dairy breakfast spend months cleaning up the farm, repainting fences, turning hay fields into parking lots and praying for good weather. Cows are clean, barns are whitewashed, milk houses - normally the cleanest place on the farm anyway - are scrubbed sparkling.
A beautiful Saturday dawns and a thousand people are served breakfast in three or four hours. Children enjoy a petting zoo, the oldsters enjoy the horse drawn wagon and everyone has a chance to see dairy farming in action.
"For the first time, they were coming up and saying thank you.' Tim told me.
"I went there for my uncles,' Jim told me. "They are no longer alive. But we provided them spiritual and emotional honor.'
Last week, Suzi De Graf traveled with fifteen of our area veterans to LZ Lambeau. "LZ' stands for Landing Zone. Suzi told me about the event in Green Bay which honored the Vietnam Veterans who never received the warm welcome home they deserved.