MON AM News: OCI urging insurers to reduce barriers to coronavirus testing; WisBusiness: The Show with financial analyst Cindy Bohlen

March 9, 2020

In the latest edition of the “Meeting in Middle America” video podcast, host Steven Olikara interviews Tarik Moody, a Milwaukee DJ and host of Rhythm Lab Radio.

— The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is urging health insurers in the state to reduce potential barriers to access COVID-19 testing. 

In a bulletin sent to insurers, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable calls the novel coronavirus outbreak an urgent public health challenge. He’s asking health insurers to waive any cost-sharing for COVID-19 laboratory and radiology testing. 

Health plan issuers are also being requested to waive cost-sharing for any visits to provider offices, urgent care centers, hospitals or emergency rooms related to testing for the disease. 

These insurers are also being asked to review internal operations to be sure they’re ready to respond to more cases in Wisconsin. Only one person has been confirmed to have the disease in the state, and that individual has made a full recovery. But the state Department of Health Services is currently testing 12 more people for COVID-19 and state and local health officials have been preparing for a larger impact. 

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, health plan issuers should continually assess their readiness and make any necessary adjustments,” Afable said in his message. 

The agency notes that some patients may turn to telehealth services as an alternative to in-person visits amid the outbreak of the virus. Afable is encouraging insurers to ensure their telehealth programs “are robust and will be able to meet any increased demand.” 

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— The latest episode of “ The Show” spotlights Cindy Bohlen, a financial analyst with Riverwater Partners, a Milwaukee-based social investment firm.

Also, Liz Schrum presents Tech Metrics, which chart key indicators and events in the Wisconsin economy.

In a separate commentary, Tech Council President Tom Still talks about the startup economy in the United States and beyond — should Wisconsin startups and emerging companies be worried?

Watch the show here: 

— In the latest edition of the “Meeting in Middle America” video podcast, host Steven Olikara interviews Tarik Moody, a Milwaukee DJ and host of Rhythm Lab Radio. 

Moody also oversees digital strategy and innovation for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. Their discussion explores the idea of using music as a vehicle to bring people together, as well as the role of technology in the modern economy. 

“Tech can solve problems as much as it can cause problems; it’s like a pencil, or a paintbrush or anything else,” Moody said. “We look at Facebook and say, ‘Facebook, you’re doing all these bad things.’ But tech can also make a difference.” 

The podcast also highlights 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s Backline accelerator program, which brings the startup accelerator model to young artists in the music industry. 

“Today if you want to be a musician full-time and make a living, you have to think like a business. That’s just the way it is,” Moody said. 

The program started a little over two years ago and this year’s cohort of musicians will be announced soon. Each of the three participants, which can be bands or individual artists, gets $20,000 as well as help with connecting to managers and labels. 

Find the audio version of the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and watch the video here: 

See an earlier story on the Backline program: 

— Researchers at UW-Madison have developed a new therapeutic agent that could improve treatment of various childhood cancers. 

The newly developed agent can precisely deliver radiation therapy to tumors. It’s being tested in adult clinical trials as well as a Phase 1 study involving pediatric brain cancers. 

According to an info sheet from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the researchers have shown the agent could help diagnose and treat at least 10 different cancers. When paired with different types of radioactive isotopes, the agent can play a role in both treatment and detection. 

WARF is seeking commercial partners to help develop the new innovation and says it has potential to become “the first targeted radiotherapeutic agent for multiple pediatric solid tumors, including malignant brain tumors.” 

Early results from the clinical studies show “negligible uptake” by normal human cells while cancerous cells are being targeted. 

The inventors are Mario Otto, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UW-Madison, and Jamey Weichart, an assistant professor of radiology. 

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— UW-Madison will award the winner of the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year with full tuition, according to a recent release from contest organizers. 

An awards ceremony is being held today in Madison, where finalists from around the state will be judged based on speeches and interviews. Award winners will receive $25,000 in scholarships, provided by FOX Sports Wisconsin in partnership with various sports teams in the state. 

Boys & Girls Clubs in the state support 144,800 kids through 160 sites in 58 cities, the release shows. Eighteen finalists have been chosen for today’s awards ceremony. 

Regional finalists will address members of the state Senate on Tuesday after meeting with legislators. 

See more on the awards: 

— Madison-based Exact Sciences has acquired Paradigm Diagnostics and Viomics to extend its lab testing and R&D capabilities, the company announced recently.

According to a release, Paradigm offers a comprehensive genomic profiling test for patients with advanced cancers, allowing physicians to better understand a patient’s tumor profile and more effectively recommend targeted therapies or clinical trials. Viomics provides sequencing capabilities and expertise in identifying unique biomarkers that indicate the presence of cancer in solid tissue and blood.

“The addition of these companies and their talented team members to Exact Sciences is another step forward in extending our leadership in advanced cancer diagnostics,” Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy said in a statement.  

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both of the acquired companies will remain in Phoenix.

See more at Madison Startups: 

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Rep. Sara Jacobs


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