My meeting with Senator Johnson’s Wisconsin Legislative Director

A lot has happened in the last week since I posted about my attempt to talk to a staff member at Senator Ron Johnson’s Oshkosh office on May 9.

On Monday, May 15, I got a call from Tom Petri, Senator Johnson’s Wisconsin legislative director. I knew Tom 10 years ago when he worked at the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association and I worked at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as the outreach director for the BadgerCare Plus program.

I called Tom back on Monday, and we set up a meeting on Friday, May 19. After talking and emailing with a few knowledgeable people this week, I invited Beth Swedeen to join me. Beth is the executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Here is a brief summary of our conversation:

  • Tom thinks the Senate will vote on AHCA 2-4 weeks after Memorial Day.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (RJ) sees “Medicaid reforms” as essential to health care reform, but feels that Medicaid should be there to help people. RJ has no intention of impacting/hurting the disability and frail elder communities, or harming children and mothers. He wants to ensure that they “get it right.”
  • RJ sees cuts as  “bending the cost curve” — that there will still be increases to Medicaid funding in future years, but acknowledges that proposed reforms will mean that funding will not keep pace with the increases in cost for healthcare. I emphasized that this bending of the cost curve will still mean that many people will lose coverage — the Wisconsin Hospital Association estimated more than 300,000 people. We should emphasize that this number includes many of the people RJ wants to protect.
  • RJ sees high-risk pools as an answer to the cost issue.
  • RJ is a pragmatic “numbers nerd” — an accountant and CEO. He wants to see hard numbers. He wants CBO scores. RJ will be putting out regular progress reports on how the Senate work group is moving on this.
  • RJ wants to focus on what we can do in 2017 to avoid having insurers pull out of the marketplace and is concerned that insurance companies will not continue to offer coverage. RJ’s biggest concern is about making sure the insurers want to continue in any new system.
  • We asked him whether he is concerned that the current bill doesn’t address cost drivers in health care. He said yes, but also said that topic “would be covered in later efforts” and not in this bill. There seems to be a lack of will for government to be involved in managing health care cost.
  • Tom thinks the Senate will “kick the can down the road” to preserve marketplace coverage, and that Senate Republicans will apply a patch to help us get through what they see as a crisis in the marketplace.

Thoughts on future contacts:

  • Provide data about how vulnerable people will be impacted by AHCA.
  • Emphasize that when times get lean, optional services are the first to go and this will impact the people who are most in need of services.
  • Focus on how Medicaid provides supports to ensure that people can keep their jobs and keep the economy moving.

Here are the talking points from our meeting.

One Reply to “My meeting with Senator Johnson’s Wisconsin Legislative Director”

  1. Hello: Thanks very much for this great information! I found it in-depth, smart and usable.

    In fact, I just used it to write a citizens’ letter to Ron Johnson. I hope it pushes the needle.

    Could you please add me to your list of contacts, so I can send more letters in the next few weeks? By the way, I’m a member of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and I focus my letters and phone calls on saving the ACA or its main benefits. Thanks!

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