THU AM News: Task force on prescription drug prices holds first meeting; Native American Center for Health Professions gets $1 million grant renewal

— As prescription drug prices continue to rise in Wisconsin, a task force created earlier this year will explore strategies to stem the tide. 

The first meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Prescription Drug Prices was held yesterday, marking the start of a nearly year-long process that will end with a recommendation report planned for fall 2020. The group was created by executive order in August, and members were announced last month. 

“We’re not coming into this with a preconceived set of outcomes of where we’re going to end up,” said Deputy Insurance Commissioner and Task Force Chair Nathan Houdek. “We don’t have the answers today. That’s why we’re going to be doing this work together over the next few months.” 

Starting with a Milwaukee meeting in January, the task force plans to meet each month at locations around the state, with each meeting highlighting a different segment of the prescription drug industry. Houdek said the first meeting will likely center on pharmacy benefit managers, while others will hit on manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, pharmacies and the consumers themselves. 

Consumers in the state are estimated to spend $1.3 billion on prescription medications this year. And prescription drugs make up nearly 10 percent of all health spending in the country. 

Anna Benton, designee deputy Medicaid director for the state, represents the Department of Health Services on the task force. She noted the state’s Medicaid program “actually has a very well-run pharmacy program” that’s held up as a model by other states across the country. 

“But still we pay over $1 billion per year for drugs for Medicaid recipients,” she said. “And our costs are greatly increasing, so it’s a huge concern to us.” 

Michael Goldrosen, a doctor of internal medicine at Associated Physicians in Madison, spends most of his time taking care of patients. He sees the direct impact of drug costs on patients across the spectrum, whether they’re insured through Medicaid or Medicare, privately insured or have no insurance at all. 

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Mark Afable, state Commissioner of Insurance. “There’s no quick fix to it. But I really do think we can move the needle in the right direction.”

See more: 

— The Native American Center for Health Professions is getting a $1 million, five-year renewal grant, supporting efforts to recruit American Indian and Alaska Native students into the medical field. 

As part of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, the center received the grant from the Indian Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant aims to expose pre-college and college students to health careers and increase the number of qualified applicants to professional programs in the field, while also supporting “culturally responsive programming” and more Native American-focused health training. 

“We are giving Native students, no matter their age or background, permission to dream and succeed and then providing the support and resources they need to achieve those dreams,” said Bret Benally Thompson, the grant’s principal investigator. 

The competitive grant was previously awarded to NACHP in 2014, and the new funding will expire in 2024. Since the program got its start in 2012, the number of American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing health professional programs at UW-Madison has more than tripled, while the application rates of medical degree students increased 240 percent. 

NACHP partners with five tribal groups in the state: the Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican. 

See the release: 

— Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will travel to Madrid next month to speak as part of an American delegation of business representatives, activists and state and local leaders for upcoming UN climate talks.

“Despite our president’s ill decision to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, we will continue to do this work urgently and diligently,” Barnes said in a statement about the trip.

According to the release, the official U.S. delegation for the talks will be smaller than Barnes’ delegation, which the release said is comprised of more than 70 representatives from “state, city and tribal governments, businesses, colleges and universities, healthcare and other institutions.”

Barnes said he plans to speak on the state’s efforts on equity and sustainability. He currently chairs Gov. Tony Evers’ Task Force on Climate Change.

The lt. guv will leave the state for Madrid Dec. 4 and return by Dec. 10. His office didn’t immediately respond to questions as to whether the state will pay for the trip.

Republican leadership in the Legislature didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Barnes’ travel plans.

See the release:

— The state Department of Corrections is getting around $175,000 from the USDA for a telemedicine program to be used for health and mental health examinations. 

According to a release from the federal agency, the technology will also enable distance learning for inmates. This project will serve 21 counties in the state. 

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— License sales for this year’s nine-day gun deer season are roughly in line with last year, a release from DNR shows, though the number of licenses for young children is up considerably. 

At the end of last week, 538,643 licenses for gun, bow, crossbow and others were purchased, compared to 539,137 in 2018. Crossbow license sales are up 10 percent over last year’s total, and 3,648 children under the age of 9 have licenses this year, compared to 2,257 last year. 

“DNR staff, private agents and our Go Wild system are prepared for a busy week as we expect sales traffic to increase each day as hunters prepare for the opener on Saturday,” said Kimberly Currie, director of customer and outreach services for the agency. 

See the release: 

See a story from last year on hunting licenses: 

— Madison’s annual Tech Gala will take place Dec. 4 at the Edgewater Hotel, organizers announced recently.

Now in its third year, Tech Gala is maintaining its partnership with the United Way, which will receive 100 percent of the proceeds. According to a release, Tech Gala has raised more than $16,000 for its charity partners.

This year’s theme is the old west. The event will include a buffet dinner, live music and games.

Presenting sponsors include PerBlue, Fetch Rewards, Hardin Design & Development, HealthX Ventures and Exact Sciences.

See more event details at Madison Startups: 


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# Children’s Wisconsin striving to improve mental health in state’s youth

# Ring leader: Andrea Nelson has breathed new life into Madison’s boxing scene



– Ag census drills down stats on Wisconsin farm irrigation

– State & national milk production rose in October


– Milwaukee Bucks exceed diversity, inclusion goals for Fiserv Forum construction

Building blocks: Renovation of the AL. Ringling Mansion Ballroom


– Wages are the bright spot in Wisconsin’s employment picture


– SC Johnson aims to boost literacy for Racine students 


– CUNA Mutual Group to tear down circular Mineral Point Road building


– Republican lawmaker files lawsuit against Evers over records


– Journal Sentinel block, parking lot sold for $9 million

– Bay View’s Stitchweld apartments sell for $54.3 million


– DNR encourages deer hunters to look for feral pigs


– Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich featured on video game cover


– Drink Brew City to make new Winter Whale Fest one of two annual events promoting craft beer


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