THU AM News: Evers’ budget to include proposals aimed at reining in prescription drug costs; over 1,000 Wisconsinites died from COVID last month

— Gov. Tony Evers’ upcoming budget will include a series of proposals aimed at reining in the costs of prescription drugs. 

One provision is a $50 cap on copays for insulin. More than a half-dozen states have approved caps in insulin copays with four of the restrictions taking effect last month and a fifth coming in July, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Another proposal is eliminating drug copays in the BadgerCare program. Currently, prescription drug copays in BadgerCare run from 50 cents for over-the-counter drugs to $3 for brand-name medications. There is also a $12 cap per member, per provider, per month on copays, not counting costs for over-the-counter medications.

“Picking up your prescription shouldn’t break the bank, but we know too many Wisconsinites continue to struggle to afford their medications,” Evers said. “That’s just not right. Healthcare — medications or otherwise — shouldn’t be a privilege afforded only to the healthy and wealthy, and that’s why we are going to be tackling this issue head-on in our budget.”

The Wisconsin Medical Society echoed the guv’s position that prescription drugs are a major reason why health care is unaffordable for too many patients.

Chief Policy Officer Mark Grapentine said the organization looks forward to looking at the details of the provisions. 

Read the full story at 

— Wisconsin saw 1,076 COVID-19 deaths in the previous month. That’s nearly 20 percent of the state’s overall pandemic death toll occurring in January. 

Since Jan. 3, Milwaukee County reported 167 people had died, which was 71 fewer people than the month of December. Neighboring Waukesha County followed, adding 106 COVID-19 deaths or 35 fewer deaths than December. And Dane County came in at No. 3 with 69 deaths 

As of yesterday, 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties experienced over 50 deaths. Of those counties, central Wisconsin Wood County had the greatest percent increase since Jan. 3. Its death toll jumped 40 percent from 48 deaths on Jan. 3 to 67 deaths yesterday. 

Dane County followed with a 38 percent increase. And northeastern Marinette County saw a 36 percent increase from 45 deaths on Jan. 3 to 61 deaths yesterday.  

Counties reporting the most COVID-19 deaths with their tolls in parenthesis are Milwaukee (1,151), Waukesha (450), Racine (300), Kenosha (277), Dane (251) and Brown (197). Fifteen counties report death tolls in the triple digits or greater. 

— Wisconsinites have ordered nearly 17,000 free, at-home COVID-19 saliva collection kits. 

The state entered a contract with Vault Medical Services in December to provide a kit to everyone who lives in Wisconsin. People can order the kit on the Department of Health Services’ website and have it shipped to their home for free. To date, there have been 16,846 kits ordered.

The kit has instructions on how to collect the saliva, which includes a video call with a testing supervisor through Vault Medical Services. The recipient then seals the sample, packages it in a box provided and puts it into a UPS drop box to the Minnesota lab for processing. The box must be in the mail the same day the video call happens. Vault sends the test results via email.

The state pays Vault based on the number of kits ordered. The at-home collection test kits are supported by insurance whenever possible, according to DHS. For people without insurance, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services covers the cost. In that situation, the per cost test to the state is $120.99.

Request a kit here.

<i>For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

Sign up here: </i>

— The state reached a settlement with Rolling Hill Dairy Farm requiring the dairy to pay $144,000 and construct runoff controls to resolve pollution violations. 

The settlement with the Luxemburg concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, was approved by the Kewaunee County Circuit Court last week. 

“Those who unlawfully pollute our waters must be held accountable. In this case, the work of DNR and DOJ to enforce our environmental laws has resulted in a significant financial penalty and greater protection against runoff into the East Twin River in Kewaunee County,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul.

The state alleged Rolling Hills Dairy unlawfully discharged contaminated runoff from its feed storage area into the East Twin River, a trout stream. The state also alleged the dairy unlawfully denied DNR staff access to inspect the CAFO to determine where the contaminated runoff was coming from. Other charges include the dairy failed to show runoff controls would prevent runoff, did not meet runoff control permit requirements, stored feed in an unapproved location and spread manure before a rainstorm.

— UW-Madison Badger Precollege, academic programs for students age 5-18, is ramping up for an all-online summer 2021. Program options range from STEM classes to music clinics. 

UW-Madison has for decades offered pre-college programs to help students prepare for college. It’s recently tried to make the programming more accessible, diverse and relevant to a wider audience. 

Badger Precollege staff are working with schools across Wisconsin to boost scholarship availability and increase the number of students from different backgrounds, socioeconomic levels and learning needs who are often overlooked and underserved. They’re also developing curricula designed to promote critical thinking, cultural competencies and social justice.

“We really want to teach young people to become global citizens,” said Assistant Dean of Precollege Programs Christopher Pevey Harry. “That includes thinking at a high level and sharing with peers from a variety of backgrounds, which in turn will also help students be better prepared for college.”

— The Wisconsin Bankers Association has named Park Bank President and CEO Jim Hegenbarth 2020 Banker of the Year.

Hegenbarth was recognized at the Wisconsin Bankers Association Bank Executives Conference for his commitment and leadership to his staff, bank and community. 

“To be named Community Banker of the Year means showing an unparalleled commitment to your bank, your community, and the industry as a whole,” said WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels. “We at WBA recognize Jim’s many achievements and are proud to honor him with this prestigious award.”

— Voyageurs International will refund $636,500 to 335 Wisconsinites for payments made for the company’s 2020 European tour. 

The Colorado-based company canceled the trip in March 2020 due to the pandemic. As part of the cancellation, they withheld a $1,900 cancellation fee from each high school music student and adult chaperone who had prepaid for the trip. Voyageurs claimed that this fee was withheld due to non-refundable amounts paid to third-party vendors, as well as general operating costs of the business. 

After receiving complaints from consumers and conducting an investigation, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection found that Voyageurs received substantial refunds from these third-party vendors but failed to pass these recouped fees on to their customers. 

Lara Sutherlin, administrator of DATCP’s Division of Trade and Consumer Protection, said while canceling events and tours during a pandemic is understandable, businesses cannot misrepresent fees they charge in the event of a cancellation. 

Voyageurs will issue the refund to DATCP, which will then contact affected students and their families beginning in May to arrange payments.

— In other DATCP news, the agency recommends gifting Wisconsin products this Valentine’s Day.

DATCP’s Something Special from Wisconsin program is a trademarked marketing program and logo that means at least half of the ingredients, production or processing activities of a product are Wisconsin-based. 

The program includes a “Boxes of Fun” series — curated boxes that can be shipped across the country. February boxes are available in six varieties filled with products, such as savory snacks or sweets, from SSfW member businesses.

“Your support for creative and enterprising initiatives such as our ‘Boxes of Fun’ help local businesses in our state thrive,” said SSfW Director Lois Federman. “Each dollar spent is an investment in not only a local business, but also in Wisconsin’s economy.”

Order here: 


# Racine County real estate firm sues Foxconn, claiming breach of local agreements

# Email Reveals Real Reason Vos, Republicans Created Racial Disparities Task Force 

# Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport traffic totals drop 62% in 2020



– December Milk Price Clocks in at $18.10 


– Milwaukee Public Schools Will Bring Some Students Back Starting Next Week


– Compeer Financial Awards General Use Grants to 19 Wisconsin Orgs 


– Developer Sues Foxconn For Breach Of Contract Over Stalled Wisconsin Project 


– Bemis Manufacturing boosts investment in medical device company 


– Wisconsin Assembly sends mask order repeal back to Senate

– Effort to remove Evers’ mask mandate getting sent back to state Senate


– ‘Johnny V’ shortens proposed Wauwatosa apartment tower 

– Johnson Controls departure challenges downtown, but presents opportunity 


– Anticipating Statewide Mask Mandate Repeal, Cities And Counties Craft Local Ordinances


– ‘Crazy’ price swings: Koss stock bounces back 28% 


– Brewers working on Covid-19 safety plan to host fans at American Family Field this season 


– Potawatomi Hotel & Casino among Milwaukee DNC donors receiving refunds totaling over $5M 

– ‘Hamilton’ to return to the Marcus Center this fall 


– Milwaukee Council Members Push Back On Expansion Plans For I-94 


– An important stop for waterway traffic, Lock and Dam 4 near Alma gets $4.5 million in upkeep 


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

– DATCP: Friends in agriculture helps preserve Clark County’s rich agricultural history

– CLA: Announces career achievements

– WRTP, Big Step: Welcomes Lindsay Blumer as new president & CEO

– AG Kaul: Announces settlement with Rolling Hills Dairy Farm, LLC requiring $144,000 payment and construction of runoff controls to resolve violations of Wisconsin’s wastewater laws