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Tell Governor Walker It's Time to Sever the Early Innovator Grant Agreement
Written by Kirsten   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 13:38

Members of the Wisconsin 9/12 Project were pleased to see on November 30th that Governor Walker had listened to informed citizens and ordered the rescission of Emergency Rule 1117. The rule brought the state into compliance with provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare). While we're still watching the situation carefully and awaiting the actual rescission, we thank and applaud Governor Walker for making an excellent first step in truly protecting the State of Wisconsin and its citizens against egregious federal overreach and beginning to restore greater integrity to the 26-state lawsuit challenging Obamacare's constitutionality.

However, the battle to protect Wisconsin in the healthcare arena is not yet over.

Wisconsin has still not returned $49 million in federal Obamacare grant funds that it accepted in February. We know that $38 million of the total was an Early Innovator Grant (EIG), provided for the express purpose of building a PPACA-compliant healthcare exchange. According to the Office of the Governor, the remaining $11 million was intended for upgrades to the eligibility and enrollment systems of BadgerCare Plus, the state's Medicaid program, as well as an integration of BadgerCare Plus into the exchange.

It is imperative that Governor Walker next return any money already drawn down on these grant funds, sever the grant agreement, and order the permanent cessation of any and all work on the exchange.  Until he achieves these objectives, Wisconsin remains at serious risk of:

  • Undermining its state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment
  • Compromising the healthcare freedoms of its citizens
  • Damaging the 26-state lawsuit before the Supreme Court

In an article published on this site early last week, Jeff Horn looked closely at the EIG application guidelines and indisputably demonstrated that the Federal Government does expect a finished product at the end of the two-year grant period: working, compliant exchange technology for implementation by the recipient state, in this case Wisconsin. Furthermore, the guidelines state not once but twice, on pages 18 and 26, that recipient states will cede the full intellectual property rights of any technology produced so that the Federal Government can "offer" the technology to other states.

 
The Ties That Bind
Written by Jeff Horn   
Monday, 05 December 2011 21:21

People around the state are questioning why Wisconsin hasn't returned the $38 million Early Innovator Grant awarded by HHS earlier this year to help Wisconsin implement a PPACA State Health Insurance Exchange.  To most, it's common sense that you just don't get something for nothing... especially when dealing with the federal government.

Still, the folks over at the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) keep saying that there are "no strings" attached to this money.

Frankly, this is just plain nuts!  You see, the very first page of the grant documentation reads:

"This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will provide competitive incentives for States to design and implement the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure needed to operate Health Insurance Exchanges"

Perhaps OCI is unaware of what it means to implement something?  Well, "implement" is a verb meaning "to put into effect according to or by means of a definite plan or procedure."  The federal government is clearly expecting Wisconsin to deliver the goods.  They want and expect access to software that implements a health insurance exchange.

Reading the grant application a bit further (p. 18), we see just why they want the software implemented:

“Under 45 CFR 92.34 HHS retains a royalty-free, nonexclusive, irrevocable license to reproduce, publish or otherwise use and authorize others to use, for Federal Government purposes, the copyright in any work developed under the grant, or a subgrant or subcontract, and in any rights to a copyright purchased with grant support. HHS shall be provided with a working electronic copy of the software (including object source and code) with the right to distribute it to others for Federal purposes consistent with and throughout the execution of the Cooperative Agreement”

They want Wisconsin to implement health exchange software, so that they can use it royalty free!  Just where are they going to use it?  The grant rules spell that out too!

"These 'Early Innovator' States will develop Exchange IT models, building universally essential components that can be adopted and tailored by other States." (p. 4)

and

"The Exchange IT system components (e.g., software, data models, etc.) developed by the awardees under this Cooperative Agreement will be made available to any State" (p. 5)

HHS wants to use health insurance exchange software developed here to spread the Obamacare joy to the other states in our nation!

Some even believe that, since PPACA itself does not provide funds for developing the federal exchange that HHS threatens states with should they not implement a state exchange, HHS will use exchanges developed by Early Innovators as a basis for a federal exchange.

This isn't even the worst part!  You see, page 25 of the grant documentation says:

“Requirements – Recipients shall comply with all current and future requirements of the project, including those issued through rulemaking and guidance specified and approved by the Secretary of HHS.”

Like it or not, Wisconsin is in a deal where the federal government holds all the cards!  HHS can change the rules however and whenever they so desire!

This is far from a "no strings" proposition!  This grant actually binds Wisconsin with ropes and chains! Wisconsin must give the feds whatever we make to use however they see fit and must comply with whatever rules the feds think up now and in the future.  Sound like a good deal, right?  Well, at least they're not asking for our firstborn children? (well, at least not now... maybe in the future)

If OCI would simply read the grant application, it's obvious that the federal government has high expectations about what Wisconsin will deliver and that they fully intend to leverage their investment in early innovator states like Wisconsin to bring Obamacare to every state across the country.  For a mere $38 million, Wisconsin is being asked to build the gallows on which the insurance industry, health care, and perhaps even our republic will be hanged.

 
Mark Belling Fails His Listeners on Obamacare Compliance and OCI's Emergency Rule 18
Written by Kirsten   
Monday, 21 November 2011 22:21

Late this afternoon, Milwaukee-area talk radio personality Mark Belling failed his listening public in an epic manner.

Belling had an opportunity to use his bully pulpit to explore fully both sides of Emergency Rule 18, recently promulgated by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) and signed by Governor Walker on November 3rd. The rule brings Wisconsin into compliance with Obamacare rules and regulations.

Astonishingly, the talk radio host claimed he was setting the record straight, then presented the only side of the story that apparently interested him. He finished off with an attempted and shameful drive-by hit on conservative grassroots activists and Tea Party organizers who are responsibly educating and advocating on the opposite side of the issue.

How regrettable that Mr. Belling, whose radio show depends on his credibility, denied his many listeners greater access to the facts and attacked people who have researched this matter thoroughly. He might have done a great service by helping the public to understand an issue that bears heavily on whether they will continue to enjoy personal healthcare freedoms. Instead, he fell down on the job.

To "get the story straight," Mr. Belling went to one source, and one source only--The Governor's Office, from whence he heard and swallowed the same tired OCI talking points that nationally recognized experts have already thorougly discredited, most notably:

  • We must comply with Obamacare to resist Obamacare
  • The emergency rule represents only limited compliance and does no harm 

Bewilderingly, Mr. Belling chose not to interview on his program today:

  • A single conservative grassroots organizer advocating on this matter--and there are now a number of us
  • Any of five Republican Assemblymen who voted against AB 210, and who would thus almost certainly be against Emergency Rule 18
  • State Senator Frank Lasee, who killed AB 210 in the Senate Committee on Insurance and Housing and similarly stands against Emergency Rule 18's language
  • Experts from the Goldwater, Cato, or Heartland Institutes or the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, all of whom agree on the dangers of any compliance with Obamacare, however limited

Failing to talk to anyone but the administration allowed Mr. Belling to thoroughly dismiss a number of legitimate concerns, which he did, apparently with no compunction.

 
A Few Thoughts on Strategy: Communicating about OCI's Obamacare Emergency Rule
Written by Kirsten   
Saturday, 19 November 2011 23:56

This is the fourth in a series of articles about the healthcare situation that is quickly unfolding here in Wisconsin. 

If you missed them, here are parts One, Two, and Three.

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Over the past few weeks, Wisconsinites have become increasingly aware that their healthcare freedoms are in danger. An emergency rule signed by Governor Scott Walker on November 3rd and by State Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel on November 11th, brings this state into new compliance with Obamacare.

Emergency rules generally lead to permanent rules. Moreover, a single line in the justification for this emergency rule tells us that AB 210 is almost certainly still the vehicle intended to serve as permanent rules.

Assembly Bill 210 has been introduced, a bill that repeals inconsistent provisions in accordance with federal requirements, but it is unlikely that AB 210 will be enrolled within reconsideration timeframe. Therefore the Commissioner is proposing this emergency rule to comply with federal requirements in order to retain regulatory jurisdiction of grievance and independent review processes.

The third article in this series dealt with the damage this emergency rule does to the 26-state lawsuit to which Wisconsin has been party since January of this year. Not only does compliance compromise Wisconsin's credibilty in claiming that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka Obamacare, is unconstutional; it also undermines the integrity of the court case overall.

Unfortunately, if we blow it, we don't just blow it for Wisconsin...we blow it for everyone in the United States. At least seven other plaintiff states in the case are, like us, continuing to move toward implementation of Obamacare. So, we certainly won't be alone in messing things up. But that fact doesn't make it better. We need to reverse course now in order to restore greater integrity to Wisconsin and to the lawsuit overall.

But tackling this problem is not necessarily simple. Many people are justifiably upset that this emergency rule was signed. It indeed places the State of Wisconsin, state residents, small insurers, and our lawsuit against Obamacare at risk. But depending on how we approach matters now, we can make a difference...or a disaster.

So, before we do anything else, let's take a look at the three possible avenues in front of us. We can...

  1. Stand around and gripe. I think we all know how that one ends, so I hope no one reading this article will choose this option.

  2. Get all up in the governor's face with a lot of angry invectives and demands. Unfortunately, as much as it might feel good to do this initially, this option also ultimately goes nowhere. In fact, it will backfire. Why...? First, raw anger almost always prevents your target from hearing your actual message. It will get lost or ignored, as the other person focuses on defending themselves against your emotional onslaught. Second, raw anger inspires the ire of those who feel protective of the person you're attacking. In this case, a large segment of the public feels pretty darned loyal to Governor Walker. Scream at him, and you're likely to get nothing more than a lot of people screaming right back at you.
     
  3. Calmly but resolutely work to put the facts in front of the public, our legislators, and Governor Walker. When people are calmly presented with the plain facts surrounding this emergency rule and the danger in which it places us, when they truly understand that OCI is not telling the truth, the tide will begin to turn. As we educate fellow citizens and legislators, we will have more people to help firmly and respectfully communicate the facts to the Governor.

Option #3 is the best strategy. It alienates no one.  Quite to the contrary, it brings the maximum number of citizens on board to pay close attention to the issue and to communicate the facts to Governor Walker. It also creates a means of educating legislators and enlisting their help. We need them, too.  

Incidentally, many legislators have also been misled in relationship to the true effects and impact of first AB 210 and now this emergency rule. So some of them may have a hard time accepting that fact. The goal is not to shame anyone. Please do not take that approach. The goal is simply to help them understand the truth so that they can start fighting for the right things from here on out. Again, we need our legislators awake and helping to inform Governor Walker.

Educate, educate, educate. But remember: The teachers you liked best in school and from whom you learned the most were never the mean ones. Be firm in your message, but also calm, friendly, and polite. 

Call and set up an appointment to talk with your representatives on this crucial matter---at the Capitol or in district. 

Talk to your neighbors, friends, and relatives.

And keep those calls and emails going to the Governor's Office:

Ph. 608.266.1212
email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

Together, we will prevail.

 
Help Governor Walker Understand the Truth: Keep up Calls and Emails on the Emergency Rule
Written by Kirsten   
Thursday, 17 November 2011 23:20

This it the third article in a series I began last week about the dangers Wisconsin currently faces in relationship to Obamacare. 

-----------

My friends, I have come to the conclusion that Governor Walker is being very poorly advised on the matter of compliance with Obamacare. We need to break through the bureaucratic double-speak that is surrounding him.

As many of you now know, efforts were too late this week to stop the governor from signing an emergency rule that brings Wisconsin into compliance with Obamacare. We had been told the Governor would sign the rule on November 15th or the 16th. We did not know until late Wednesday afternoon that the Governor had, in fact, already signed the emergency rule on November 3rd. The rule was published in the Wisconsin State Journal yesterday, November 16th.

The new emergency rule parallels language in AB 210, a bill that Senator Frank Lasee announced on November 1st that he would kill in the Senate Committee on Insurance and Housing. All of Senator Lasee's reasons for killing AB 210, in fact, now bear upon this emergency rule.

How so?  

Because the outcome of an emergency rule is generally a permanent rule. So, while the emergency rule lasts for only 150 days (with the possibility of a 120 day renewal), a permanent rule will be sought to replace it. This emergency rule is laden with language that comes straight out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka Obamacare.

Right now, our governor is receiving---and trusting---wrong information. He appears to believe what the people at the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) are telling him, most notably:

  1. We must comply with Obamacare in order to protect against Obamacare.
  2. Limited compliance does not harm Wisconsin or our lawsuit against Obamacare in any way. 

The decisions being made based on these falsehoods are placing Wisconsin and its residents at risk.

 
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