WED AM News: Medicare access improves cancer outcomes, study shows; Dairy industry members encouraged to support water quality bills

— A recent study led by UW-Madison researchers shows how access to high-quality insurance such as Medicare can improve cancer outcomes and help patients live longer. 

“Patients lacking access to affordable treatment may delay treatment due to cost, or delay diagnosis despite having symptoms,” said Rebecca Myerson, assistant professor of population health studies at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “For patients needing urgent access to medical care, such as patients with cancer, high-quality insurance can save lives.”

Myerson was the lead author for the study, published recently in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Results highlighted the positive impact of health insurance on cancer detection and survival, particularly for women. 

The study found that detection of breast, colorectal and lung cancer increased significantly at age 65 when most people become eligible for Medicare. 

Meanwhile, cancer mortality for the same diseases decreased more for women at age 65 than for those two years younger. The cancer mortality rate did not change for men. 

“This represents an improvement in health equity among women with cancer,” Myerson said. 

The benefits of Medicare coverage on cancer diagnoses and survival were “particularly pronounced” for African-American women. 

After they became eligible for Medicare at age 65, African-American women in the study saw a larger increase in detection for early-stage cancer than other women. And African-American women experienced a large drop in cancer mortality at age 65. 

“In contrast to the encouraging results among black women, we found no significant change in cancer detection or mortality at age 65 among black men,” Myerson said. “Closing racial disparities in cancer outcomes should continue to be a high priority going forward.” 

See more: 

— At the Dairy Business Association’s Dairy Day at the Capitol, lawmakers and state officials encouraged members to lobby for the Water Quality Task Force’s 13 bipartisan bills.

“We need better stewardship, and we need to invest in current stewardship,” Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said yesterday. 

The Water Quality Task Force focuses on animal contamination of water along with PFAS and lead contamination. But nitrate is Wisconsin’s top water contaminant, according to DNR Secretary Preston Cole.

“Clean water is everybody’s business, and it’s an absolute necessity,” Cole said. “Kewaunee County and other rural areas’ groundwater is contaminated by pathogens and nitrates from too much manure and fertilizer.”

In a Q&A, DBA member Mike North argued that studies have shown other stakeholders are equally involved in water contamination, such as residential lawn fertilizer and septic leaks. Cole agreed, but argued the DNR is not going to participate in the “blame game.”

“We are a solutions-based organization,” said Cole. “Farmers are a part of the solution and farmer-led groups can combat water contamination by using innovative practices.”

Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, and Shankland both predicted the bills will pass the Assembly.

“On my side — I’ve just briefed my caucuses — I have no doubt that all 13 of these bills will go through the State Assembly,” Novak said. “Now, we’re talking to senators that maybe have no knowledge of water and bringing them up to speed.”

Shankland presented three of the bills to DBA including a $3 million increase in the state budget for county conservationists, a nitrate optimization pilot and a measure for best agricultural practices that invests in a state-managed grazing specialist and an Alliance for Water Stewardship certification.

“Companies like Miller are already getting this AWS, but not many farms,” Shankland said. “The audits cost $20,000 — a huge risk for farmers financially and from a time-management standpoint.”

Under the bill, the state would cover half the cost of a successful audit.

“An audit is a stringent process, but farmers hope one day that label on their product will be something consumers will ask for,” Shankland said. “Consumers are demanding stewardship and that their products were made in a caring and compassionate way. We hope that certification will be worth money so that farmers can get a return on investment.”  

See the full list of task force members: 

— Environmental advocacy organizations are suing the state Public Service Commission, arguing a solar energy program from We Energies violates federal law. 

The suit was filed recently in Dane County Circuit Court by Renew Wisconsin, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and Vote Solar. It aims to overturn a PSC decision on the grounds that the recently approved rate structure pays more for electricity generated by utility-owned panels on customer property than for similar systems owned by customers. 

The state PSC approved the plan from We Energies 2-1, with Chairperson Rebecca Valcq voting against the program. 

“This is about basic fairness: there needs to be a level playing field where customer renewable energy investments get the same opportunities as utility-scale power plants,” said Renew Wisconsin Director Tyler Huebner in a statement. 

See the legal document for the lawsuit: 

— A bill that would create a wide-ranging ban on the use of firefighting foams containing a chemical that contaminates groundwater is on its way to the governor’s desk after passing both legislative houses. 

The proposal would ban the use of perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, except in emergency circumstances or for testing purposes when the facility has adequate cleanup materials. Both houses approved the bill yesterday by voice vote.

Still, Democrats in the Assembly introduced an amendment that would’ve expanded PFAS protections from the chemicals beyond firefighting foams. But it was rejected along party lines.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said the amendment would’ve killed an otherwise bipartisan bill.

“Unfortunately, you’re playing politics with my constituents and their safe drinking water,” Nygren said.

Rep. Katrina Shankland criticized the bill, saying that it “really only prevents future contamination just related to firefighting foam” and that it does not address containment or prevention for PFAS from other sources or already in the environment.

See more at 

— Home sales in December were nearly 15 percent higher than in the previous December, according to the latest monthly report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. 

Still, WRA Board Chairman Steve Beers noted December 2018 had “a pretty weak sales performance.” Last month saw 5,705 homes sold in the state, bringing the total for last year to over 82,000 sales for the fourth year in a row.  

Michael Theo, president and CEO of WRA, attributed the strong sales numbers to a healthy economy but noted that “tight supply continues to fuel the growth in home prices.” 

The price of a single-family home increased more than 10 percent over the year, reaching $197,000 in December. And the number of home listings was around 12 percent lower over the year, reaching 22,145 last month. 

Counties with metropolitan areas continue to have fewer homes available than rural counties in the state. Across all counties, homes aren’t staying on the market as long as they were last December. 

See more housing data from WRA: 

— Rep. John Nygren is touting a partnership with major state insurers that in many cases removes prior authorization requirements for substance abuse treatments.

The Marinette Republican at a news conference called the partnership “one of the most impactful reforms we have accomplished as part of the HOPE Agenda.” He said the agreement will save lives and that his efforts “have been met with open ears” by insurers since the beginning.

The agreement states that major health insurers will cover at least one naloxone product that blocks opioid effects without pre-approval from the insurance company. Insurers will also provide medication-assisted treatment “at the lowest patient cost tier on many of the plan’s drug lists.”

Nygren said there would still be a pre-approval requirement in certain medical circumstances, such as if the individual seeking treatment was pregnant.

“WHA is pleased to see health plans removing prior authorization requirements that have placed barriers on individuals seeking substance abuse treatment and added unnecessary administrative burdens to physicians and health care professionals providing substance abuse services,” Wisconsin Hospital Association President Eric Borgerding said in a statement.

The partnership is an agreement with insurers and not binding legislation. Nygren also mentioned that many major insurers in the state already provided naloxone without pre-approval ahead of yesterday’s announcement.

“I want to make sure this is done above board and not a way for special interests to stuff their pockets even more,” Nygren said. “I’m very careful at making sure who’s benefiting from this. The number-one beneficiary should be the person who’s struggling.”

— Twelve Wisconsin companies and law firms have been given 100 percent ratings in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s latest Corporate Equality Index. 

The HRC Foundation is a nonprofit group aimed at improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and queer individuals and has designated more than 680 companies as top places to work for LGBTQ equality. All of these businesses earned a perfect rating. 

Three of the top-rated companies from Wisconsin — Alliant Energy, American Family Mutual Insurance Company, and CUNA Mutual Group — are based in Madison. 

S.C. Johnson & Son of Racine and Kohl’s Corp. of Menomonee Falls were also recognized. The other seven companies are all based in Milwaukee: Foley and Lardner LLP, ManpowerGroup, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, Quarles & Brady LLP, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, and Rockwell Automation Inc. 

“These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do — it is also the best business decision,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square.” 

This year’s equality index report rated 1,059 companies in all based on non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, responsible citizenship, and supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility — including a public commitment to LGBTQ equality. 

The average score for companies and law firms in the state was 88.5 percent. Of the 20 Wisconsin companies ranked, 12 earned 100 points, 16 earned 90 and above, and 17 earned 80 and above. 

See more from the report: 

— The Doyenne Group has established a memorial fund for co-founder Amy Gannon and her daughter Jocelyn, who died in an accident in December. 

In addition, a memorial service will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 31 at The Sylvee in Madison. Attendees are encouraged to wear a scarf in Amy’s honor.

According to the website, donations will be used toward Doyenne’s continued growth and success and continued support of Jocelyn’s passions. All donations, which can be made online, are tax-deductible and eligible for company matching dollars.

See the memorial fund page: 

See more at Madison Startups: 


# New name announced for Miller Park

# Under new deal, some insurers seek to expedite access to drug treatment in Wisconsin

# Plan for 4 a.m. DNC bar time in jeopardy; proponents blame legislator who owns supper club

# Red Cliff awarded $4.8M to build, renovate housing

# Senate votes to restrict use of PFAS firefighting foam



– Farmers use custom earmuffs to protect calves from cold


– Land and Lakes plans third spec building in Mount Pleasant

– La Macchia Group names future owners, new president


– DNR: Total 2019 Wisconsin deer kill down 14%


– Ascension micro-hospital project in Menomonee Falls to receive TIF assistance

– O’Hare Airport added to list of airports screening for new strain of coronavirus


– 40 Wendy’s, Fazoli’s restaurants in Wisconsin violated child labor laws


– What to watch in Harley-Davidson’s fourth-quarter earnings report


– Downtown alderman says DNC security zone will cause a ‘great deal of disruption’

– State Assembly to vote on groundwater, nurse assault, opioid bills


– Metro Milwaukee December home sales up nearly 17%, 2019 sales up slightly

– La Macchia Group reveals long-term succession plan, names new president


– Wisconsin lawmakers approve firefighting foam restrictions


– Big-name brands attach themselves to Bucks-Hornets game in France

– International speedskating event coming to Pettit Center in West Allis 


– Margaret Krome: Wisconsin lawmakers are proving that water quality is bipartisan. They can do the same for the farm crisis


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Wisconsin Hospital Association: Statement on prior authorization/addiction treatment agreement

Acuity: Achieves record revenue growth in 2019