TUE AM News: Report highlights COVID impact on college plans; New Alliant solar project goes online

— A new report estimates about 19 percent of Wisconsinites who planned to attend college this year canceled those plans due to COVID-19. 

The report was produced by QuoteWizard, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based LendingTree, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In an interview, Senior Research Analyst Nick VinZant said the findings “paint a picture that COVID is still having a big impact on higher education plans” both in Wisconsin and nationwide. 

Along with the 19 percent who canceled prior college plans due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, the report also found 28 percent of those planning to attend college opted to take classes online or through a different format. And 16 percent said they’re taking fewer classes due to COVID-19, according to the report. 

At the national level, those percentages are even higher. The report shows 29 percent of U.S. students planning to attend college this year canceled those plans, while 36 percent are going with a different format such as online classes, and 22 percent are taking fewer classes. 

“I think what these numbers really show is that coronavirus is still having a huge impact on people’s decisions, specifically younger people,” VinZant said. “When looking at it, we didn’t expect the numbers would be anywhere near that high.” 

He explained the data for the report came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, conducted in July and early August. He said 762,821 people in Wisconsin were included in the survey, about 250,000 of which provided responses the company used in its report. 

See the report: https://quotewizard.com/news/insurance-for-college-students 

— Alliant Energy has announced its first utility-scale solar development — the Bear Creek Solar Project — is now online in Richland County. 

According to a release from the Madison-based company, the 50-megawatt project can generate enough electricity to power about 13,000 homes. Construction on the project began in July 2021. Bear Creek is the first of 12 Alliant Energy solar projects planned in Wisconsin, the release shows. 

David de Leon, Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin president, says the project “diversifies our energy portfolio, boosts American energy independence and increases access to affordable electricity.”

Plus, the company says Richland County and the town of Buena Vista are expected to receive $200,000 in combined shared revenue payments annually from the project for the next 30 years. 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/alliant-energy-construction-complete-on-alliant-energys-first-utility-scale-solar-project/ 

— WEDC wants applicants for a global trade venture to the United Kingdom in late October and early November. 

Registration for the in-person trip closes Friday, a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. release shows. The Oct. 29-Nov. 5 venture will include stops in London and Manchester, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, where participants will have the chance to meet with selected trade partners in their industries. 

According to WEDC, the United Kingdom is the sixth-largest export market for Wisconsin companies. Of the $61 billion in U.S. exports to the United Kingdom in 2021, $722 million came from Wisconsin, per the release. 

The agency notes “trade opportunities are aplenty” in the post-Brexit era, as many UK companies are “lacking some of the regional economic perks” of companies in the European Union. 

The trip will cost $2,500 for a company’s first participant and $2,200 for a second attendee. The fee covers market research services and one-on-one business meetings as well as hotel and ground transportation. It doesn’t include round-trip airfare or most meals. 

See more on the trade venture: https://wedc.org/blog/global-trade-venture-england-scotland-2022/ 

See the WEDC release: 

— Dem AG Josh Kaul has again urged the Joint Finance Committee to approve an opioid settlement that would give $31 million to the state to address substance abuse related issues. 

Kaul in a Green Bay press conference yesterday criticized the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee for stalling the plan Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake says would expand the state’s NARCAN supply program, fentanyl test strip distribution and other resources. Kaul added the state needs that money now because pandemic-related stress and the increased prevalence of fentanyl have only increased the severity of substance abuse issues in Wisconsin. 

“Those are the kinds of investments we need to beat this epidemic in the long term,” he said. “So we are continuing to call on the Legislature to step up, explain what their objections are so we can move forward and get these resources to communities as quickly as possible.” 

The current settlement agreement is slated to bring $100 million to Wisconsin with $31 million expected to go to the state government and the rest going to local governments.

JFC Co-chairs Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein in an email to WisPolitics.com blasted Kaul and said they are considering proposals not included in the original plan. 

“The Joint Committee on Finance has a responsibility to ensure these funds are utilized in a way that makes the strongest impact for Wisconsinites—not just rubber stamp whatever incomplete plan Attorney General Kaul and Governor Evers’ administration gives us,” they said.

Timberlake, also in Green Bay, said state funds would also go toward addressing unstable housing issues, expanding treatment services, investing in tribal nations’ treatment programs and K-12 school programming, among other things. 

“These are the strategies that more than 900 people told us in a round of listening sessions that we did back in January this year,” she said. “[These] were the right investments to make, they’re investments we are ready to make and we just need the authorization of the Legislature to be able to get these dollars out into Wisconsin.” 

— Quartz Health Solutions has announced a new program aimed at improving the health of patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

The program is being offered to eligible Quartz health plan members through a partnership with California-based Virta Health, providing telehealth services as well as personalized nutrition plans. It’s being launched this week for patients aged 18 to 79 who are enrolled in an eligible Quartz health plan, a release from the company shows. 

It’s described as a “reversal treatment” for obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to the release, a peer-reviewed clinical study found participating patients saw sustained weight loss of 12 percent after one year in the program. And 94 percent of clinical trial patients using insulin either decreased or eliminated their dosage.

Quartz members using the program will get access to the Virta app, which connects them with health coaches and clinicians who can monitor their condition and provide other help such as nutrition guidance.

Virta Health President Kevin Kumler notes nearly half of Wisconsin residents have diabetes or are prediabetic, and more than 40 percent are obese. 

“Partnering with Quartz provides an opportunity to not only help their members get healthier and reduce costs, but to reverse the unsustainable trajectory of metabolic disease in Wisconsin overall,” Kumler said. 

Quartz is owned by Advocate Aurora Health, Gundersen Health System, UnityPoint Health, and UW Health. The company manages four provider-owned health insurance plans, and has about 370,000 customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, the release shows. 

See more details: https://www.virtahealth.com/join/quartz 

— Madison-based Health eFilings has announced it’s been acquired by Alpha II, a Florida company providing billing services and other software. 

According to a release, the combined entity will offer a platform of revenue cycle solutions and clinical data analytics for health care providers. 

“Our mission has been to leverage technology to improve the quality of patient care and lower costs to support the successful transition to a value-based care model,” Health eFilings CEO Robert Hopton said in a statement. “We have long admired Alpha II for their deep commitment to developing innovative solutions that drive revenue integrity while improving patient outcomes.” 

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. 

See more at Madison Startups: https://www.madisonstartups.com/health-efilings-acquired-by-alpha-ii/ 

— A Milwaukee company providing tissue banking and gene and cell therapy automation plans to move into a new headquarters in Muskego. 

Biocut Systems, doing business as Xiogenix, announced this new name and the move in a recent release. The new 75,000-square-foot facility is being built by Brookfield-based Briohn Building Corp., and the company plans to move there in spring 2023. 

See more details in the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/biocut-systems-to-do-business-as-xiogenix-in-new-headquarters-complex-in-muskego/ 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.</i>

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<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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