Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tips for Using the Marketplace for Insurance

Now that you have health coverage through the Marketplace, it’s time to review your plan and decide if you need to make changes for 2015.  You can choose to stay in your current plan (as long as it’s still offered) or make changes. Follow these 5 steps to stay covered through the Marketplace.

  • Every year, insurance companies can make changes to premiums, cost-sharing, or the benefits and services they provide. Review your plan’s 2015 coverage to make sure it still meets your needs and you’re getting the best plan for you.

  • Visit and log into your Marketplace account. Answer a few questions to get to your 2015 application – it will be pre-filled with your latest information from 2014. Step through each page of your application and make changes if you need to. You also can call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to review or make updates over the phone.

  •  Log into your Marketplace account and follow the “Enroll To Do List” on to compare 2015 plan costs and benefits. New and more affordable plans may be available in your area this year.

  • Choose a health plan for 2015. You can keep the same plan (as long as it’s still offered) or select a new one that better fits your needs.

  • Stay covered for 2015! Contact your plan to confirm your enrollment. Make sure to pay your premiums.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Affordable Care Act Provision for Former Foster Care Youth

Effective January 2014, Medicaid coverage for youth who were in foster care at age 18 may now receive full Medicaid benefits up to their 26th birthday.  Youth who lost Medicaid coverage due to exiting out of home care when they turned 21 in the past several years, are also covered under this provision if they are not yet age 26.  While there is no premium required for Medicaid under this provision, a nominal copayment of $1 to $3 may be required for some services.  There is no income or resource test for these youth while they are eligible under this provision.  They are not required to pay any premiums for themselves.  Regardless of income, they are now eligible for the Medicaid Standard Plan until the end of the month in which they turn 26 or they are otherwise ineligible, whichever is sooner.  Youth who move to Wisconsin from another state are also categorically eligible for Medicaid for former foster care youth providing they meet the same eligibility requirements.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week!

By Debbie Millman

Suicide continues to be a big concern for Wisconsin.  In the Department of Health Services report, “The Burden of Suicide on Wisconsin: 2007-2011”, the average number of suicides in our state in the years covered was 724.  Some key findings from the report included:


  • The highest rate of suicide during this time period was among people between the ages of 45 and 54.
  • Teens and young adults had the highest rates of hospital visits for self-inflicted injuries.
  • Whites and American Indians had the highest rates of suicide; yet high school students of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely than their White peers to report suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens were more likely to report poor mental health, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors than their heterosexual peers.
  • Of the suicides with known circumstances, 51 percent had a current mental health problem, 35 percent had problems with an intimate partner, 26 percent had an alcohol problem, 23 percent had physical health problems, and 21 percent had job problems.


You can access a full copy of this report here:


We all know the suicide rate in our county is a problem.  So, what can we do about it?  Here are a few ideas:


1.    Join the efforts of our local suicide prevention coalition.  You can find more information about coalition efforts here:

2.   Attend a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training. The next one is scheduled for 9/30 from 6-8 p.m. at the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center in Portage.  It is free and open to the public.

3.   Get familiar with the mental health resources in our county so you have good information to give someone who is struggling.  This information can also be found at:

4.   Take the time to listen to someone who is struggling.  Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide.  Suicide is more likely to occur when it is kept a secret.

5.   Talk to someone if you are struggling.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Hope is powerful and we all need it!  Talking to someone and opening up can give you hope. 


The crisis line for Columbia County is:  1-888-552-6642.  This number will connect you with a trained crisis  worker from Northwest Connections.  Northwest staff will also connect you with a county social worker who will assist you with finding the help you need after the crisis is over.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Get Your 2014 Flu Shot!
The 2014-2015 flu season is fast approaching.  The best way to protect yourself and your family is by getting a flu shot.  Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine this season.  Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.  During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community. 
Starting Monday, September 22nd, Columbia County Health and Human Services will be offering pneumonia shots and preservative free seasonal flu shots for adults on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm during our Public Health Walk In Clinic and during our monthly Immunization Clinic the 2nd Monday of each month from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The cost for the preservative free flu shot for adults is $30.00 and the cost for the pneumonia shot is $55.00.  Please bring your Medicare card with you.  We are not a Badgercare provider.
Starting Monday, September 22nd we will begin offering free preservative free seasonal flu shots from the Wisconsin Immunization Program for infants 6 – 35 months of age. We have not yet received our shipment of free seasonal flu vaccine and flu mist for 3 – 18 year olds from the Wisconsin Immunization Program.  Free preservative free flu vaccine and mist is for infants and children 6 months thru 18 years of age who meet at least one of the following requirements: 1) Uninsured or Underinsured (underinsured means your child has health insurance but it doesn’t cover flu vaccine 2) Medicaid-eligible (including BadgerCare) or 3) Native American or Alaska Native.  We will keep you posted on our website and Flu Vaccination Hotline as to when we will offer free flu vaccine for children 3-18 years old that are eligible.
Columbia County Health and Human Services flu vaccine clinics are located at 2652 Murphy Road in Portage. Please use entrance number four.
Please check this website regularly for up to date information on our flu vaccine clinics. You may also call our Flu Vaccination Hotline at

Monday, August 25, 2014

HPV vaccines offer disease protection pre-teens can grow into—Now for girls and boys 

When it comes to their kids, parents are always planning. Healthy dinners. Safe activities.  One plan that’s easy to make could have a tremendous benefit, even saving a life. That’s planning to have pre-teens vaccinated against HPV, the leading cause of cervical and anal cancers.

“There are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States,” said Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in U.S. women each year. But vaccinating boys and girls against HPV greatly reduces the chances that today’s girls will ever have to face this devastating disease.”

CDC recommends HPV vaccination for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys, as well as for young women ages 13 through 26 and young men ages 13 through 21 who have not yet been vaccinated.

Two HPV vaccines—Cervarix and Gardasil—are available for girls to protect against the HPV types that cause most cervical and anal cancers. Gardasil also protects against the HPV types that cause most genital warts.  Gardasil is the only vaccine approved for boys.  

Both brands of HPV vaccine are given in three doses (shots) over six months, and protection requires all three doses. “Completing the three-dose HPV vaccine series is very important to ensure protection against HPV-related disease,” Dr. Wharton said.

While vaccinating against a sexually transmitted virus at age 11 or 12 might seem unnecessary, the preteen years are the best time to vaccinate. “The HPV vaccine only provides protection if it is given before exposure to HPV,” said Dr. Wharton. “Someone can be infected with HPV the very first time they have sexual contact with another person.” To get the most benefit from HPV vaccination, all three doses must be received before any kind of sexual activity with another person begins.

Atlanta mom Amber Zirkle recognizes the importance of vaccinating her children now for protection they’ll need in the future. Her 11-year-old daughter will get an HPV vaccine this year at her regular check-up. As for getting HPV vaccine for her 16-year-old son, Amber said, “I didn’t know it was available for boys. I'll talk with the pediatrician about it.” She added, “Genital warts aren’t something I want my son to deal with.”

Other vaccines recommended specifically for pre-teens include meningococcal conjugate, which protects against bacterial meningitis, and Tdap, which boosts immunity against pertussis (whooping cough). Everyone age six months and older should get an annual flu vaccine.


To learn more, visit or call 800-CDC-INFO.

































This document can be found on the CDC website at:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Send Your Kids Back to School with their Vaccines Up to Date

National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder
that we all need vaccines throughout our lives.

Back-to-school season is here. It’s time for parents to gather supplies and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your kids are up to date on their vaccines.

To celebrate the importance of immunizations throughout life – and make sure children are protected with all the vaccines they need – Columbia County is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month.

Most schools require children to be current on vaccinations before enrolling to protect the health of all students. To see what vaccinations your child needs check out the Wisconsin Immunization Program’s website

Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, and whooping cough.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.

School-age children need vaccines too! For example, children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio. Older children, like preteens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines when they are 11 to 12. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.
If your child needs immunizations before heading back to school Columbia County’s free immunization clinic is on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8am – 12pm.  There is also an afternoon immunization clinic on September 8th, October 13th, November 10th and December 8th from 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm. 

Your child can receive free immunizations at one of these clinics if they are 18 years or younger and meets at least one of the following requirements:

·    Uninsured or underinsured (underinsured means your child has health insurance doesn’t cover any vaccines, doesn’t cover certain vaccines or covers vaccines but has a fixed dollar limit and once that limit has been met then your child is eligible)
·       Medicaid-eligible (including BadgerCare)
·    Native American or Alaska Native

Or call us at 608-742-9227.

Monday, August 11, 2014

World Breastfeeding Week

This past week we celebrated World Breastfeeding Week.  This year's theme was Breastfeeding:  A Winning Goal for Life!  This goal acknowledges that when mothers and their babies succeed in their breastfeeding plans, they can enjoy a lifetime of benefits which include:

  • Reduced Levels of Poverty & Hunger:  Exclusive and continued breastfeeding provides high quality energy and nutrients that promote healthy growth and development.  Breastfeeding is affordable and does not burden household budgets;
  • Improved Maternal & Infant Health;
  • Empowerment for Women:  Breastfeeding is a right of women as well as babies and should be supported by society, for example, via maternity protection laws;
  • A Fair Start in Life for Every Child:  Breastfeeding is the great equalizer, giving every child a fair start in life.  Breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are fundamentals for readiness to learn;
  • Reduced Infant and Child Mortality:  Infant mortality can be readily reduced with improved breastfeeding practices alone.
For more information about breastfeeding, please click on link below: