Part I of the Advocacy Day post focused on the entire program hosted by Wisconsin Hospital Association. This post will highlight the specific topics that were discussed during the legislative visits that were briefly touched on in the previous post. As indicated, WHA provides attendees the opportunity to visit the State Capitol and their respective state senators and representatives. During the visits, hospital employees, volunteers, and other professionals share their concerns and/or support for proposed or previously enacted legislation with the legislators that represent their districts. It is a tribute to both WHA and our state’s hospital systems that they are able to collaborate and advocate for change that will not only improve their individual organizations but will enhance the patient experience; thus, enriching the quality of lives in Wisconsin.
The first issue addressed was Medicaid’s “Hidden Healthcare Tax” and the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Program. Almost 1.2 million individuals in Wisconsin use the Medicaid program and seek care in the state’s healthcare facilities. Hospitals are reimbursed only 65% of the cost, which results in a $960 million shortfall. The result is a hidden tax that drives up employer and employee health insurance premiums. DSH is a program designed to help offset the losses and Wisconsin has a DSH program in effect; however, Wisconsin’s is one of the smallest in the country and currently is only budgeted for the next two years. The hope is that this program will be improved through increased funding and will become a permanent part of the state’s budget.
Next, the advocates discussed the Worker’s Compensation program and the potential to impose a fee schedule for medical providers. In addition, there is a proposal to shift the program to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. Wisconsin’s Worker’s Comp. program is regarded as one of the best in the country and is viewed as a model system. The state’s worker’s comp premiums are the lowest in the Midwest and studies show our injured workers return to work more quickly than their peers in other states. The takeaway from this issue was that our program is working well and does not need to be changed.
The groups concluded with a conversation regarding Interstate Physician Licensure Compact legislation. The general feeling is that this bill would help Wisconsin obtain more qualified physicians and in a more expedited manner. Often the licensure process, as physicians travel from state to state, can be cumbersome and time consuming. The result is delayed patient care and possibly a shortage of physicians in the state. As long as a doctor is in good standing and the requirements are monitored, this program appears to be a positive for Wisconsin healthcare systems; however, one representative did express concern about protecting patients and the standards of care.
While there were three main issues focused on, the groups were able to discuss other items with their legislators as well as get to know them better in this semi formal setting. The rapport was positive and there was a mutual sense of understanding and respect through out the shared dialogue. The legislative visits were a key aspect to the overall success of Advocacy Day and could not have been accomplished without the support of WHA or the 600 members of the group that participated. I was honored to join the cause. This excerpt is only meant to highlight the topics and discussions of the 2015 WHA Advocacy Day Legislative Visits.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out Part 1 of this series.