- Associated Press - Sunday, July 6, 2014
Judge to mull senator’s suit over health exchanges

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A federal judge is set to consider a Wisconsin senator’s lawsuit challenging how President Barack Obama’s administration has applied health care reforms to Congress.

At issue is a U.S. Office of Personnel Management rule that states congressional members and staffers must obtain health insurance through small business exchanges.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson filed a lawsuit in January alleging congressional employees aren’t eligible for the exchanges because the federal government is too large. He also contends that the government’s premium subsidies for congressional workers will create resentment among his constituents.

Government attorneys counter that Johnson hasn’t shown how the rule harms him. They’ve asked Judge William Griesbach to dismiss the case.

A hearing is set for Monday in Green Bay.


Most of June was wet in Madison, Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (AP) - It’s official: most of June was wet in Madison and Milwaukee.

According to the National Weather Service, Madison had about 9 and 1/2 inches of rain last month, which ranks as the fifth most on record. The record is nearly 11 inches in 2008.

Milwaukee received more than 6 inches, which ranks at 14th. The most was over 12 inches in 2008.

As far as the actual number of days it rained, Milwaukee tied with 1969 with 20 days of at least a trace of rain. Madison also had 20 days of at least a trace of rain in June, which was the second most since the weather service started keeping records.


Wisconsin traffic deaths are down so far this year

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin road deaths are on the decline again this year.

Donald Lyden, safety research analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said 215 people have died in traffic crashes as of June 30, compared to 226 on the same date in 2013.

Last year 527 people died on Wisconsin’s roadways, a major decline from the 601 fatalities in 2012, according to Post-Crescent Media (https://post.cr/1j6CJsThttps://post.cr/1j6CJsT ).

Lyden attributed the decline to a number of factors, including improvements and upgrades to Wisconsin highways, a focus by law enforcement on arresting drunken drivers, citing speeders and an ongoing emphasis on safety campaigns and programs.

“There’s been an increase in law enforcement, safer vehicles and safer highways - along with better-constructed roads and intersections,” Lyden said.

Lyden said fatalities usually spike in June, July and August because people drive faster. But if June statistics are any measure, the summertime surge might not materialize this year.

The DOT reported on Thursday that last month was the second-safest June in terms of traffic deaths since the end of World War II. Traffic fatalities in June 2014 were 12 fewer than in June 2013.


Prescription opioids kill about 300 people yearly

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Prescription opioids claimed the lives of about 300 people each year from 2006 to 2012, according to data from the state Department of Health Services.

Opioids are narcotic drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, typically used for pain relief and contain a synthetic form of opium, the core ingredient in heroin. They are the primary gateway to heroin use. Abusers can be curious teens, drug addicts looking for a different high or older adults suffering from pain who start with a legitimate need but slide into addiction.

Between 297 and 329 people died from prescription opioids each year from 2006 to 2012, as heroin deaths rose fivefold, according to Gannett Wisconsin Media (https://gbpg.net/1jWiEADhttps://gbpg.net/1jWiEAD ). All but six counties reported at least one opioid death.

Louis Oppor, a substance abuse expert with the state health department, says it’s not clear how many deaths were related to non-medical drug abuse and how many were accidental overdoses.

The highest deaths per capita - about seven per 10,000 residents - came in Kenosha and Milwaukee counties in southeastern Wisconsin, and Langlade and Vilas counties in the northern reaches. Other counties with concentrations among the 20 highest include Adams, Dodge, Manitowoc and Winnebago.

Wisconsin Community Health Alliance president Dorothy Chaney said users often perceive prescriptions as safer than heroin or other street drugs since they have a legitimate medical use. But consequences can be fatal when users exceed prescribed dosages, mix medications or take drugs in ways not intended by doctors.

“The reality is many households, if not most, have narcotics in them at some point, and in many cases that’s where the addiction begins,” Chaney said. “In many cases, patients aren’t happy when they leave the doctor’s office unless they’ve got a prescription in their hand.”

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