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Craig group to sing at White House

JANESVILLE

A white Christmas while visiting the White House.

It’s difficult to predict the chances of the first, but the second is a certainty.

On Tuesday, 12 Craig High School students will sing at the White House thanks to the support of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s office and a recommendation from Janesville Performing Arts Center Executive Director Nathan Burkart.

“I’m thrilled,” said Lauren Sherman, one of the students making the trip. “It’s a crazy cool opportunity.”

The group will be led by Adam Miller, Craig music teacher and Spotlighters Show Choir director.

“It’s pretty rare to be able to go,” Miller said.

Tuesday is a Christmas open house at the White House, when the public has the chance to tour and see all the decorations. The Craig group will perform for three hours. Miller was asked to prepare 45 minutes of music they could perform for the tour groups.

Miller expects they’ll be joined by professional groups.

How did he decide whom to take with him?

“Well, that’s certainly the hardest part of my job,” Miller said.

He was looking for students who could sight read well. That would give them the ability to learn new arrangements quickly.

“We only had time for 10 rehearsals,” Miller said.

All of the students in the choir are juniors and seniors. As seasoned performers, they are more excited than nervous about the opportunity.

“We’re all experienced singers,” said senior Carter Thomas. “But I’m beyond excited.”

Thomas is a four-year member of Spotlighters and has performed with his own a cappella group, the Octones.

Sherman was part of the Wisconsin State Honors Choir. She’s also part of the a cappella choir and has performed in musicals.

She takes private voice lessons with Traci Schneider.

Sherman, a senior, is interested in attending Northwestern and hopes to double major in biomedical research and music performance.

The trip won’t give the students much time to enjoy Washington, D.C.

The group leaves Monday. Students hope to spend time touring the Smithsonian. On Tuesday, they hope to get a tour of the Capitol with a member of Ryan’s staff. Then they’re off to the White House.

On Wednesday, they’ll leave for home and will arrive in time for their choir concert Wednesday night, Miller said.

The trip is being paid for by donations and money from the school district. Students will have to pay for their own meals.


Health law helps people get, afford care, report finds

WASHINGTON

Fewer Americans are putting off doctor visits or struggling with medical bills, according to a new report examining the effect of the Affordable Care Act.

The report—based on a state-by-state survey of data collected by the federal government—provides powerful new evidence that insurance gains made through the 2010 health care law are helping millions of patients get needed medical care.

And the report’s findings, which parallel a growing body of research into the law’s effect, undercut arguments by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans who have tried to discredit and roll back the law.

“The Affordable Care Act has put access to health care in reach for millions of Americans, particularly for people in states that embraced the law,” conclude the authors of the report, published by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

Indeed, nine of the 11 states with the biggest decline in the share of residents who delayed care because of cost concerns expanded Medicaid through the law and worked aggressively to enroll their residents in coverage, the report found.

These include California, where the percentage of people delaying care dropped to 11 percent from 16 percent between 2013 and 2016.

California also has recorded some of the biggest coverage gains since the health care law’s expansion began in 2014, with the percentage of uninsured working-age adults falling to 10 percent from 24 percent, according to the report.

Across the country, the law is credited with extending health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans and dropping the nation’s uninsured rate to the lowest levels ever recorded.

Republican politicians, in their bid to repeal the law, have consistently tried to dismiss these gains as immaterial to patients’ health and access to medical care.

In a speech last month to state Medicaid directors, Seema Verma, who President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs, disparaged the decrease in the uninsured as a “hollow victory of numbers covered.”

But the new report indicates that the coverage gains have in fact had a very real effect on patients’ lives.

Between 2013 and 2016, the share of adults reporting that they delayed medical care because of concerns about cost decreased in 45 states.

The percentage of adults at risk of being in poor health who had not been to the doctor in the previous two years decreased in 37 states.

And the share of working-age adults with high out-of-pocket medical bills fell in 35 states between 2013-14 and 2015-16, according to the report, which is based on census data and national health surveys overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These gains were particularly pronounced among low-income Americans, who have arguably benefited most from the 2010 law’s coverage expansion.

In five states—Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia—the percentage of working-age, low-income adults who reported delaying care because of cost fell by 10 percentage points or more between 2013 and 2016.

In Oregon, the rate was cut in half, from 35 percent to 17 percent.

All five states have expanded Medicaid eligibility through the health care law to cover low-income, working-age adults.

“Medicaid made a clear difference in reducing cost barriers to care for low-income and minority adults,” the report says.

An increasing number of studies have found similarly dramatic improvements in patients’ access to care after they get coverage.

“The fact is health insurance helps people get access to care, gets them better preventive care and more regular care for chronic medical conditions,” said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, a health policy researcher at Harvard who has extensively studied the effect of health insurance.

“The notion that the gain in coverage is an empty number is flatly contradicted by literally dozens of scientific studies.”

A study of Medicaid recipients in Oregon released last week found that patients who gained coverage through the program were substantially more likely to get recommended medications to treat serious conditions such as diabetes and mental illness.

“Having access to medications that are prescribed for them, rather than using those that had been prescribed to someone else and might not be safe or appropriate for them, represents a major improvement in the quality and safety of care,” said Katherine Baicker, that study’s lead author and dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

Other studies have shown that improved access often leads to better results, including helping poor patients better control conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure.

Still other research suggests that the coverage expansions made possible by the Affordable Care Act ultimately will save lives.

That is what researchers found in Massachusetts after that state enacted its trailblazing coverage expansion in 2006, a model that was replicated in the federal law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010.


Government
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Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin will provide Janesville's animal control through 2020

JANESVILLE

After months wondering if it would receive 2018 funding from the city, the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is getting a better deal than it originally had hoped.

The humane society and city on Friday were working through a three-year contract for the humane society to provide Janesville’s animal control services for $125,000 each year. That’s the same amount the city has paid annually for the same services since 2014.

Humane society executive director Brett Frazier said he’s happy the humane society knows it has guaranteed income from the city through at least 2020. Previous contracts with the city had been for only one year.

A three-year contract will help the humane society make long-term plans for its resources, staff, workload and upcoming new facility, Frazier said.

“In that sense, it is very good to know what task we have ahead of us for the next three years,” he said.

The humane society’s original proposal was a three-year contract with 3 percent increases in 2019 and 2020.

Under that proposal, the 2020 contract would cost more than $132,000.

The city countered by agreeing to the three-year contract but at a flat annual fee of $125,000, “which I think will work for us, so long as we got the three-year contract,” Frazier said.

As of Friday, the city was waiting for the humane society to review and sign off on the contract, which Frazier indicated it would.

The humane society kept its annual fee at $125,000 because it promised to keep animal control services affordable, but that doesn’t mean costs don’t change, Frazier said.

The humane society proposed the 3 percent increases to compensate for inflation. Without the increases, the humane society will have to get that money from elsewhere, such as fundraising and additional adoptions, Frazier said.

“We’re doing more, it costs more, except we’re not charging anyone more,” he said.

Police Chief Dave Moore, who helped negotiate the contract, said city council approval isn’t required to enter into a multi-year contract. The police department agrees to other long-term contracts, Moore said.

The debate over animal control costs started in August, when city officials recommended the council cut animal control spending to $62,500 to help the city affording hiring an additional police officer. Later, the city learned it would receive an extra $583,000 in 2018 from the state to hire police officers and firefighters.

After an outcry from the humane society and residents, the council decided to allocate the full $125,000 toward animal control.

Instead of contracting with the humane society, the city issued a request for proposals to see if other groups were interested in providing animal control services. Only the humane society responded.

The contract allows residents and Janesville police officers to drop off recovered stray or lost pets or animals at no additional cost. The humane society works to reunite pets with owners and have strays adopted.

About 1,000 animals the humane society cares for each year come from Janesville. That’s about 40 percent of the strays and 25 percent of all animals the humane society takes in annually.


 

Dave Moore


Anthony Wahl 

Parker’s Julia Hartwig attempts a layup during the first half of a Big Eight Conference game against Middleton on Friday at Parker High School. The Vikings fell behind in the game’s first half, and despite an effort to rally in the second half, fell 58-53. Story, Page 1B.


glance

local • 3A, 8A

Abuse claim led to stabbing

According to a criminal complaint filed with the Rock County District Attorney, Justin Pennycook, 22, of Janesville stabbed Dalton Rademacher in the stomach Thursday after Pennycook heard Rademacher had physically abused the mother of Pennycook’s child. Rademacher was hospitalized at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, with injuries from the stabbing. Authorities said his condition as of late Thursday had stabilized.

state • 2A

Officials call for resignations

Leaders of Wisconsin’s Ethics and Elections commissions refused to step down Friday in the face of calls from the two highest-ranking members of the Legislature for them to step aside, perhaps setting up a highly unusual Senate rejection vote next month. The calls for Michael Haas and Brian Bell to resign come in the wake of a report critical of how evidence collected in a now-closed investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign was handled.


 

Brett Frazier