- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

Post-Crescent Media of Appleton, Sept. 18

Track down those who lost BadgerCare

As part of its response to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion plan, the state added people at or below the poverty level to its BadgerCare program who had been on a waiting list. At the same time, it knocked off people above the poverty level who had been getting BadgerCare.

The thinking, according to Gov. Scott Walker, is that nearly all of those people would get their health insurance through the federal exchange, with the help of federal subsidies.

That’s not exactly how it turned out. According to the state Department of Health Services, it has identified 38,000 people who lost BadgerCare but didn’t get insurance through the exchange.

As a result, Sen. Tammy Baldwin asked the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer a special extended enrollment period for those people. And it has - those people now have until Nov. 2 to sign up. A state Department of Health Services spokeswoman said the department would send letters to them to let them know about the extended enrollment period.

At the same time, the state should ask them why they haven’t already signed up.

It could be one of several reasons: they got a job that had insurance; they were confused by the process; even with a subsidy, premiums on the exchange are too expensive; or they simply didn’t want insurance.

But since the state kicked them off BadgerCare under the assumption that they’d go to the exchange, the state has the responsibility to find out why they didn’t.

We need to know what happened to these people - and now there’s a great opportunity to find out.


Kenosha News, Sept. 16

Working with the voter ID law

We continue to believe that Wisconsin’s voter ID law is an unnecessary burden for some voters, but clerks, poll workers and voters are going to have to work with it.

At a press conference Tuesday, Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Government Accountability Board, said, “Our job is to administer the law as it’s presented to us and take the partisanship out of it. We’ll do whatever we can in the next 49 days to shed light on it.”

The reference to 49 days means the time before the election - seven weeks from Tuesday. That’s plenty of time in one sense, but considering that the people affected by this may not realize that their lack of a photo ID could be a problem, it’s probably not enough time to prevent some eligible voters from scrambling at the last minute to obtain the identification that they need.

Kennedy pointed out that an estimated 90 percent of voters already have the necessary ID. He said he knows many people have a hard time understanding how anyone could function without a photo ID, Nevertheless, he said, there are people who do not drive and have had no need to get a passport or a state ID.

“We’ll have to emphasize to voters this is what needs to be done,” Kennedy said, meaning that they’ll need to get the required ID.

For many, the largest burden will be the transportation to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In Kenosha County, the DMV office is at 4911 88th Ave. It’s not on a bus route, and it’s not in a place anyone would normally go if they didn’t have a car.

We think the court should recognize the burden the law creates for some voters, as U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman did when he considered the case. In his decision, Adelman pointed out, “They must do whatever it takes to gather the necessary documents and make a special trip to the DMV in order to procure an ID that they will expect to use for no purpose other than to vote.”

Adelman issued an injunction against enforcing the photo ID law, but that was overturned on Friday by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although the civil rights groups challenging the law are still pursuing legal remedies, the law appears to be in place for November’s elections. It’s not clear exactly how it will affect participation.

Kennedy speculated that all the attention on voting procedures might boost turnout.

“All the attention paid to voter ID might give us a more energized and engaged electorate,” he said. “Hopefully this focuses people on the election, and we get a very high turnout as a result.”


The Journal Times of Racine, Sept. 17

UW System tuition should remain frozen

Recent news reports indicate that graduating college seniors are not the only seniors facing college debt.

Senior citizens also are facing a tremendous debt load. The total college debt load held by seniors grew to $18.2 billion in 2013, according to The Washington Post, and more seniors are having a portion of their Social Security garnished to pay back debt.

The number of people whose benefits were cut to pay for student loan debt grew to 155,000 in 2013 from 31,000 in 2002, The Washington Post reported.

That is hard to imagine.

It’s another reason that the Wisconsin Legislature and governor should take actions to try to limit the amount of debt students are faced with.

One of the most meaningful steps is keeping tuition down in the first place.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature were right to freeze University of Wisconsin System tuition during the 2013 and 2014 school years.

The governor is right to propose a second tuition freeze for the next two years.

Between the 2007-2008 academic school year and 2012-13 school year, tuition across the UW System’s four-year schools increased 5.5 percent annually.

A student paid about $3,784 for a semester in fall 2008 to attend UW-Madison. Now it’s $5,205 for a full-time undergraduate student.

That is a difference of $1,421 per semester and a difference of $11,368 for four years for those who can afford to graduate.

Then, on the same day in 2013 in which the UW System president proposed a 2 percent tuition increase, we learned that the System had more than $648 million in cash reserves at the end of the previous fiscal year. It was insulting to students and parents forking over thousands per year to the System.

Changes have occurred since the surplus became public, and we recognize there is a cost to imposing a tuition freeze. It means some projects at universities cannot get done and it makes it harder to continue paying competitive salaries to the best professors.

But officials need to keep low college debt as a priority to help future generations and to encourage students to go on to college.

We recently reported students graduating from Gateway Technical College and Carthage College are receiving higher wages. But we know many students are struggling to find work; having mounting student debt does not help them get ahead in life.

The Legislature and the governor need to do what they can to help graduating seniors so that in the years to come we don’t have even more senior citizens having their checks garnished because of lingering debt.

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