health care

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Oral arguments were heard this week in a court case challenging some of what’s left of the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin is among the plaintiffs in the case. Meanwhile, health care may prove to be an interesting balancing act for candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.

In a surprising reversal, a Wisconsin board has voted to again offer insurance coverage to transgender state employees seeking hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery.

Members of the Group Insurance Board, which manages the insurance program for Wisconsin's public workers and retirees, last week voted 5-4 to overturn its current policy barring treatments and procedures "related to gender reassignment or sexual transformation."

The change will take effect Jan. 1, allowing insurance to defray the cost of care deemed medically necessary.

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There are more than 100 specialties in the field of medicine. However, few providers and clinics focus their care on the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning/queer) community.

Mitch Teich

Dr. Bhupendra Khatri heard a lot from doctors around the country in compiling his latest book, "Healthcare 911: How America’s broken healthcare system is driving doctors to despair depriving patients of care and destroying our reputation in the world."  But the statistic that jumped out at him came from research at the Mayo Clinic, which found that more than 55 percent of physicians in this country suffer from burnout, and every year, more than 400 physicians kill themselves. 

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For nearly a decade, experts have been predicting the nursing shortage. The situation has reached a critical mass here in Milwaukee, with more institutions looking for ways to train more nurses. 

"Nurses are broadening their medical care and interaction with patients in all types of realms, and so that has then increased - even more - the demand for nurses," says Cheryl Bailey, dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Mount Mary University. 

A doctor offers a surgical add-on that leads to a $1,877 bill for a young girl's ear piercing. A patient protests unnecessary scans to identify and treat her breast cysts. A study shows intensive care-level treatment is overused.

ProPublica has been documenting the myriad ways the health system wastes money on unnecessary services, often shifting the costs to consumers. But there are ways patients can protect themselves.

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For State of Wisconsin employees, including employees at UW-Milwaukee, the health insurance open enrollment period brought a lot of questions. Most of the insurance companies who previously offered coverage will no longer do so in 2018.  State employees in the Milwaukee area have only two companies to choose from.

One is the Menasha-based Network Health, which also made the recent decision to remain on the Milwaukee County exchange, despite uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act’s future. 

Updated at 11:29 a.m. ET

President Trump's decision Thursday to end subsidy payments to health insurance companies is expected to raise premiums for middle-class families and cost the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars.

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that is intended to provide more options for people shopping for health insurance. The president invoked his power of the pen after repeated Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, have failed.

"The competition will be staggering," Trump said. "Insurance companies will be fighting to get every single person signed up. And you will be, hopefully, negotiating, negotiating, negotiating. And you will get such low prices for such great care."

Courtesy of Planned Parenthood

This week, the US House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban. The announcement came just days after both houses of Congress failed to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program, and a day before the Trump Administration issued a rule limiting women's access to birth control.

The latest Republican push to repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act appears to have met the fate of all previous Senate repeal efforts this year — it doesn't have the votes needed to pass the chamber.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins announced Monday that she will oppose the bill, authored by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Collins' decision means three Republicans have now publicly said they are against the bill — and that is one more than the GOP could afford to lose.

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The clock is ticking for Republican Congressional leaders hoping to pass healthcare reform legislation as part of the budget reconciliation process. September 30th is the deadline for a measure to pass the Senate with a simple majority. Earlier this week, a bipartisan effort to offer changes reportedly stalled. Taking its place was a measure cosponsored by Senators Cassidy and Graham. But that bill faces opposition from governors on both sides of the aisle, and its future is uncertain.

Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET

Sen. John McCain may, once again, be the savior of President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.

The Arizona Republican announced in a statement on Friday that he opposes the latest GOP legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn't that long ago that the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act died once and for all in the Senate.

Mitch Teich

Despite the politically polarized climate, the U.S. Senate this week held bipartisan hearings on proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act.  The hearings come in the wake of a failed effort by the White House and GOP Congressional leaders to repeal and replace the law known as Obamacare over the summer.

The bipartisanship has been greeted by many as a welcome change, and some analysts are optimistic that it could lead to legislation that would make the AC work more smoothly.

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