January 20, 2012
Volume 56, Issue 3

Joint Legislative Council Reviews Study Committee Reports
WiscNet, "Safe Haven" bills topics of legislative hearings

The Joint Legislative Council met January 18 to review reports from several remaining 2010 Legislative Interim Study Committees, including those on Infant Mortality and Health Care Access.

Three of the 15 proposals put forth by the Study Committee on Infant Mortality were approved to be introduced as legislation. The proposals would:

All of the proposals from the Infant Mortality Study Committee including their minutes and agendas can be found at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lc/committees/study/2010/MORT/index.html.

Only one of the proposals from the Study Committee on Health Care Access was approved to be introduced as legislation. WLC: 0066/2 would create workforce surveys as part of re-licensure for dentists, dental hygienists, physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, physician assistants, pharmacists and clinical social workers. These surveys would be similar to the one currently required for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses and would provide important workforce data for the state.

Information on the Health Care Access Study Committee, which includes Sandy Anderson, CEO of St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo; Mary Lu Gerke, vice president and chief nursing officer, Gundersen Lutheran Health System; and Greg Nycz, Family Health Center director, Marshfield Clinic, can be found at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lc/committees/study/2010/ACCESS/index.html.

The Joint Legislative Council moved to continue the Study Committee on the Review of Emergency Detention and Admission of Minors Under Chapter 51 as that Committee’s work remains in progress. Information on the Committee, which includes George Kerwin, president and CEO of Bellin Health and Dr. Gina Koeppl, regional director, Ministry Behavioral Health, can be found at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lc/committees/study/2010/CH51/index.html. WHA remains closely involved with committee discussions.

Senate Hearings on WiscNet, "Safe Haven" proposals

On January 19, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education held a hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 375, relating to WiscNet, a public-private cooperative that provides broadband Internet services to its members, including some Wisconsin hospitals.

WHA supports SB 375, which would provide WiscNet, its members and others additional time to understand and plan for the separation of the University of Wisconsin System from WiscNet required in the state’s 2011-2013 Biennial Budget.

WiscNet’s membership includes hospitals as well as over 400 other organizations, including the University of Wisconsin System. WiscNet, which is a non-profit cooperative association with its own bylaws and board of directors chosen by its membership, has served its hospital members well by providing high-capacity, affordable broadband Internet access in areas of the state where such access was previously unavailable. In areas where some level of broadband is available, such service remains cost-prohibitive and is often a lower quality, less reliable, and smaller capacity connection compared to WiscNet.

WiscNet provides expanded access to fast, dependable and affordable transmission of medical images from where they are taken to where they can be diagnosed for areas of the state where before, this transmission—and the improved health care it provides—simply was not available. Thus, hospitals have a substantial interest in ensuring that WiscNet can continue to provide these services into the future.

WHA’s testimony on SB 375 can be found here.

The Senate Committee on Public Health, Human Services, and Revenue held a hearing January 19 on SB 313, relating to relinquishing custody of a newborn child, also known as Wisconsin’s "safe haven" law. A hearing on the companion bill—Assembly Bill (AB) 396—was also held January 19. (See 1/13/12 Valued Voice story.)

In effect since April 2001, this law allows a parent to relinquish control of their unwanted, unharmed newborn, up to three days old, confidentially to any hospital employee, EMT, or police professional in the state without fear of prosecution. The hospital, EMT, or police must protect the health and safety of the newborn and deliver the newborn to the court intake worker in that jurisdiction.

Senate Bill (SB) 313 authored by Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and companion AB 396 authored by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), would expand Wisconsin’s "safe haven" law to allow a parent to relinquish custody of a child 30 days old or younger and add health care clinic staff to the list of individuals to which a parent could relinquish their newborn.

WHA provided written testimony at the hearing in support of the "safe haven" law and SB 313, that also sought an amendment that would clarify hospital requirements related to filing newborn birth information.

Additional action on SB 313 and AB 396 is expected soon.

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Governor Walker Turns Down Insurance Exchange Development Funds
Also disbands the Office of Free Market Health Care

On January 18, Governor Scott Walker announced he has turned down the Early Innovator Grant funding from the federal government for development of a state health insurance exchange. The Governor also announced he will sign an executive order to repeal the creation of the Office of Free Market Health Care. Walker had created the Office last year in order to conditionally develop a plan for a free-market, consumer-driven Wisconsin health benefit exchange, yet at the same time explore approaches that would free Wisconsin from establishing a health benefit exchange.

"Wisconsin has been a leader and innovator in health care reform for two decades, and we have achieved a high level of health insurance coverage without federal mandates," said Governor Walker. "When job creators and Wisconsin families are facing difficult times it doesn’t make sense to commit to a federal health care mandate that will result in hidden taxes for Wisconsin families, increased health care costs and insurance premiums, and more uncertainty in the private sector."

The Early Innovator Grant funding of about $38 million was awarded to Wisconsin in February 2011. The grant funds were provided to seven states for designing the technology infrastructure needed to operate health insurance exchanges. Of the states awarded these grants, Kansas and Oklahoma also subsequently turned down the funds. Wisconsin reportedly had spent under $2 million of the grant funds.

Speaking at an advisory council meeting on January 19, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Dan Schwartzer indicated that the Administration has completed a significant amount of research and development work on the Exchange. In order to make it work, the Administration felt it needed flexibility from HHS—something HHS reportedly would not agree to in writing. In addition, according to the Deputy Commissioner, the pending Supreme Court ruling on the health care reform law creates enough uncertainty that it didn’t make sense to continue to work at the same pace. Given the research and development activities that have taken place to date, however, the Administration believes they can gear up to meet 2013 deadlines should the health care reform law be upheld.

"WHA strongly supports Wisconsin administering its own exchange, and we do not believe that notion should be a partisan issue," said WHA Executive Vice President Eric Borgerding. "But wanting a state-run exchange does not automatically mean that will happen because under current federal law, HHS must approve state-level exchanges. WHA will continue to support the development of a state-level exchange and monitor federal rules around exchanges, with an obvious eye on the elections and the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision."

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Medicaid News - DOA Certifies Budget Deficit to Feds
Certification needed for exception to maintenance of effort provisions

At the end of December, Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Mike Huebsch sent a letter to the Secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, certifying that the state has or projects to have a budget deficit. This certification is required by the federal government in order to allow the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to move forward in implementing changes to the Medicaid program.

The certification will allow for an exception to federal maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements, which otherwise would limit changes the state could implement. With the MOE exception, the state could restrict eligibility and enrollment in the Medicaid program for non-pregnant, non-disabled adults with household incomes above 133 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $29,700 for a family of four).

In December, the state received a letter from CMS indicating that it could impose premiums on adults with incomes above 150 percent of the federal poverty level, and impose a new affordability test for adults with income above the 133 percent threshold. The recent budget deficit certification letter does not specify which changes DHS would make. DHS has stated that it is not planning to impose an across-the-board reduction in the eligibility income limit to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. (See The Valued Voice articles of December 16 and January 6.)

Secretary Huebsch certifies that the state has or projects to have a deficit during state fiscal year 2012, and projects a budget deficit for state fiscal year 2013. The letter does not specify the deficit level. State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) released a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) about the budget certification. In it, LFB references a DOA report that indicates a general fund deficit of about $3 billion when using generally accepted accounting principles. In developing the biennial budget, the state uses cash-based accounting principles and, using those principles, LFB estimates a general fund balance of $69.2 million for 2011-12.

The LFB memo states that CMS expects to formally respond to the certification within the next several weeks. The LFB memo to Rep. Richards and letter from Secretary Huebsch to Secretary Sebelius can be found at  www.wha.org/Data/Sites/1/medicaid/DOAletter-DHHS1-11-12.pdf.

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Registration Open for WHA’s Premier Grassroots Event, Advocacy Day

Registration is now open for WHA’s annual Advocacy Day set April 24. The event draws 750 hospital advocates to Madison to learn about hospital issues and to make their voices heard in the State Capitol.

"The legislative visits are extremely valuable on both sides—for legislators to see the faces and hear the words of advocates and for us to see that we can and should communicate our views. It can and does make a difference," said one attendee who met with legislators during the 2011 Advocacy Day.

"This was extremely informative and inspiring for us to become more involved and have our voices heard. It was very apparent that we need to be involved," said another 2011 attendee after a legislative visit.

Legislative visits are the highlight of Advocacy Day. When close to 500 hospital advocates take the hospital message to the State Capitol, it can’t help but make an impact. Advocacy Day makes a strong statement about how much hospital employees, trustees and volunteers care about their local hospital and that they’re willing to take action to protect them.

"It’s important to understand the issues confronting hospitals and to be a strong voice in the state and to advocate for hospitals," said a 2011 attendee.

But, Advocacy Day is more than just a demonstration of support. Attendees hear from national and state legislative, opinion and policy leaders and hear timely information about what is happening on health care issues. This year’s keynote is nationally-known pollster Kellyanne Conway, who will discuss the "pulse of the nation." Conway is the founder and president of the polling company™, inc., founded in 1995, and headquartered in Washington, DC. She is one of the most quoted and noted pollsters on the national scene, having provided commentary on over 1,200 network and cable television shows and countless radio shows and print stories. Luncheon keynote will be Governor Scott Walker (invited) and the legislator panel discussion will round out the morning sessions.

"Advocacy Day provides a great opportunity for staff and volunteers to spend some focused time on public policy issues. The WHA staff does a fantastic job packing an unbelievable amount of information and energy into a few short hours," said a 2011 attendee about the entire day.

We hope you agree about the value that Advocacy Day brings to your hospitals, your communities and your patients. Make sure you are assembling your hospital contingent now for 2012 Advocacy Day on April 24, 2012 at the Monona Terrace in Madison. A complete program and online registration are available at http://events.SignUp4.com/AdvocacyDay12.

For Advocacy Day questions, contact Jenny Boese at 608-268-1816 or jboese@wha.org. For registration questions, contact Lisa Littel at llittel@wha.org or 608-274-1820.

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Grassroots Spotlight: Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital Hosts Cong. Sean Duffy

Wisconsin 7th District Congressman Sean Duffy recently visited Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston to learn more about the facility and Ministry Health Care’s efforts to improve patient quality and safety through the use of technology. During the visit, senior leaders and staff of the hospital introduced Duffy to important technology initiatives, including being an all-digital hospital.

"It’s no secret that there are many things impacting access and delivery of health care services," said Cong. Duffy. "Wisconsin can have a powerful voice in providing solutions to these complex issues by sharing the lessons learned from our high-quality health care providers."

The centerpiece of the visit was a tour of Ministry Saint Clare’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where leaders showcased how staff is partnering with Advanced ICU Care to implement a collaborative Electronic-ICU (EICU) program. In its first five years, the EICU program has produced results that are 26 to 40 percent better than national predictions in key performance areas such as ICU mortality, length of stay and patient ventilator days.

"The real driver in our improving quality and lowering costs is the use of this technology to compliment our bedside care," Ministry Saint Clare’s President Mary Krueger told Congressman Duffy. "We are delighted to share our story with you and describe how this implements best practices and evidence-based medical guidelines to improve our overall performance."

Duffy also received an update from Chief Medical Officer Larry Hegland, MD, on Ministry’s efforts and related frustrations with the Recovery Audit Contracting (RAC) process. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 made permanent the Medicare RAC program to identify improper Medicare payments—both overpayments and underpayments—in all 50 states. RACs are paid on a contingency fee basis, receiving a percentage of the improper overpayments and underpayments they collect from providers.

"While we understand the intended purpose of the RAC process is to reduce overpayments that stem from fraud or abuse, many of these cases involve routine medical necessities that could be avoided," said Hegland. "The downstream effect is a program that costs millions for the Ministry system to manage and most of these cases are overturned on appeal."

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The Best Health Care Cities 2012
No surprise—six on the list are from Wisconsin

Six Wisconsin cities made a list recently of the best cities in the country for health care, based on U.S. Census data.

Those making the list are Marshfield, Sheboygan, Monroe, La Crosse, Fond du Lac, and Watertown.

As reported in The Daily Beast, which is the online home of Newsweek Magazine, these cities made the list based on data collected from 2008-2010 on overall health coverage. Also important in determining the ranking are the percentages of children, seniors and disabled people with health care.

"Wisconsin has one of the highest insured rates in the country, so the only surprise is that there aren’t even more Wisconsin cities on the list," said WHA President Steve Brenton. "Wisconsin attained this level of coverage without a personal mandate that requires individuals to have health insurance, as is the case in Massachusetts."

The top five cities on the best-of list are all in Massachusetts.

Several factors led to Wisconsin’s high insured rate. One is the expansion of Medicaid over the past few years. More than 1.2 million people are now enrolled in the Medicaid program. Another contributor is the state law that, as of January 1, 2010, required that unmarried dependents up to age 27 be covered through a parent’s insurance, if not otherwise insured through an employer. A similar federal law took effect about nine months later. Wisconsin also has had traditionally high levels of employer-based coverage.

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Patient-Centered Medical Home Pilot Project Launched in Eau Claire

Mayo Clinic Health System and Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire are embarking on a pilot project to improve patient health and reduce the overall cost of care. The three-year pilot will test a new model of care called Patient-Centered Medical Home.

Patient-Centered Medical Home is designed to improve access to care, increase preventive services and enhance coordination of services. It is anticipated that the combination of these efforts will keep patients healthier and, ultimately, reduce total cost of care. Preventive services will be emphasized to keep patients healthy and to treat illnesses earlier when they can be treated more effectively and at a lower cost. This approach is projected to offer cost savings to patients with multiple health concerns because of fewer emergency department visits and fewer hospital admissions.

"This is an exciting new venture," said John Dickey, chief administrative officer for Mayo Clinic Health System’s Northwest Wisconsin Region. "We are looking forward to working side by side in the clinic with care coordinators from Group Health Cooperative to test the Patient-Centered Medical Home model. Working together, we will continue to ensure the needs of our patients come first."

These efforts are closely aligned with Mayo Clinic’s emphasis on creating high-value health care and Group Health Cooperative’s purpose of optimizing the health care of its members.

"There is plenty of data showing that improving care coordination and quality leads to overall lower costs for health care," said Peter Farrow, CEO and general manager of Group Health Cooperative. "As a community-sponsored plan, we are looking forward to teaming up with Mayo Clinic Health System to evolve the delivery of health care throughout the Chippewa Valley."

Patient-Centered Medical Home is a team-based model led by a primary care physician or other health care provider who delivers consistent and coordinated care throughout the patient’s lifetime. This model provides the foundation for a long-term partnership between the patient and the physician-led multidisciplinary team that results in more effective, efficient, personalized and improved coordination of care.

The project will begin in the first quarter of 2012 and will focus on Group Health Cooperative members who seek care in the Mayo Clinic Health System departments of family medicine, pediatric & adolescent medicine and internal medicine in Barron, Bloomer, Eau Claire, Menomonie and Osseo. Registered nurses from Mayo Clinic Health System and Group Health Cooperative will work together to evaluate and identify opportunities for improvement in the quality and coordination of patient care.

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WHA Co-Sponsors "Business Day in Madison" on February 16
Speakers to focus on energy, economy and elections

The Wisconsin Hospital Association joins other partnering organizations, including host organization Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, in cosponsoring the "Business Day in Madison," set this year for Thursday, February 16 at Madison’s Monona Terrace. WHA cosponsors and participates in Business Day as part of its overall advocacy strategy to collaboratively find policy solutions to important issues.

The Business Day in Madison 2012 program will focus on three issues dominating the landscape this year: the economy, the price of energy and the 2012 elections. Key speakers on those issues are:

ENERGY: Robert Bryce - Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Energy Expert
Speech Topic: "Inventing the Future: Five Reasons to be Optimistic about Future Energy and Power Supplies."

ECONOMY: Todd Buchholz - Former Bush White House Economic Policy Director, Trend Forecaster, Author, Politics, Global Economy
Speech Topic: "The Economy in the Age of Obama."

ELECTIONS: Dr. Frank Luntz - Pollster and Communications Professional, Luntz Global
Speech Topic: "What’s Really on the Mind of America?"

Governor Walker will also be a guest speaker at the event. Business Day annually brings business leaders from across the state to Madison to learn about issues impacting the business community, to meet with their legislators in the State Capitol and to network with one another. Learn more or register for Business Day in Madison online at: www.wmc.org/display.cfm?ID=1027.

Important Note: Business Day In Madison in no way duplicates nor takes the place of WHA’s premier legislative grassroots event, WHA’s Advocacy Day, to be held April 24, 2012 in Madison. Some 750 hospital leaders, employees, trustees and volunteers from across Wisconsin are expected at this year’s event. Registration for WHA’s Advocacy Day is already open at: http://events.SignUp4.com/AdvocacyDay12.

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WHA Offers Webinar Focused on Preventing Avoidable Readmissions
Presented by renowned readmissions expert Cheri Lattimer

Improving transitions of care is in the forefront of reducing preventable hospital readmissions. Moving beyond discharge planning to better care coordination and transitions requires a change in the process, culture, and individual behavior.

On February 2 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, WHA is offering a webinar focused on reviewing the elements of reducing preventable hospital readmissions by improving transitions and care coordination. The session will be presented by renowned readmissions expert Cheri Lattimer, RN, MSN, executive director of the National Transitions of Coalition and executive director of the Case Management Society of America.

Encourage your team to participate in this webinar for one low price, including your quality managers, case managers, clinical nursing leaders, discharge planners, performance improvement director, risk manager, Joint Commission coordinators, and any other staff working toward reducing hospital readmissions.

Complete information and online registration are available at http://events.SignUp4.com/February12.

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WHA Education:  Assessing Your Vendors for ICD-10 Readiness Webinar February 15

With a project as big as the ICD-10 transition, virtually no provider is undertaking the transition without an external partner. And no transition plan is complete without a thorough assessment of the ICD-10 readiness of your current vendors and payers. Choosing the right partner or having an existing partner not be ready in time can be the difference between success and failure, and knowing how to leverage your partnerships may prove to be invaluable to the success of your transition plan.

On February 15, WHA is offering a webinar focused on asking the right questions and knowing the right facts about your current vendors and in selecting any new vendors.

Attendees will learn which vendors are needed for a successful ICD-10 transition; how to choose the right vendors for the right risks; how to leverage your relationship for maximum return; and when to outsource and when not to outsource.

This webinar is one of a four-part webinar series focused on helping hospital executives and their ICD-10 team leaders understand the magnitude of the ICD-10 implementation, the financial and clinical impact of the transition on your organization, and be better prepared for on-time implementation.

The four sessions include:

Budget Development and Budget Review for ICD-10 Readiness
An audio recording of this November 16 session is available for purchase.

Understanding Reimbursement Changes and the Financial Impact of the ICD-10 Transition
An audio recording of this December 14 session is available for purchase.

The Value of Strategic Planning for ICD-10 Readiness
An audio recording of this January 18 session is available for purchase.

Assessing Your Vendors for ICD-10 Readiness
February 15, 2012 ** 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CST

A team can register for the full four-part webinar series (for a discounted fee) or for individual sessions. An audio recording of each presentation is available to registered attendees at no extra cost, to share at a more convenient time with ICD-10 transition team members who are unable to participate on the scheduled dates. A full brochure describing the four sessions is and online registration are available at http://events.SignUp4.com/ICD10Impact11-12.

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WHA Offers Regional Seminars Focused on Documentation Improvement
Physician documentation key to ICD-10 success

Although there are many areas of preparation important to a successful transition to ICD-10, ensuring detailed physician documentation may be the most vital of them all. Proper physician documentation is critically important because of its direct bearing on a hospital’s revenue cycle and ability to report quality outcomes appropriately.

WHA is offering five regional, one-day seminars in March focused on physician documentation improvement for ICD-10. This training opportunity will allow your physicians and coding staff to learn how physician documentation impacts ICD-10 coding accuracy and the financial and clinical impact of coding accuracy in one session. You can choose the most convenient date and location, requiring your attendees to be away from your hospital for only one day, while still allowing them sufficient time to review all of the pertinent information and ask questions of the certified ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer in a face-to-face setting.

Sessions are scheduled:

• Tuesday, March 13 at Country Springs Hotel in Waukesha

• Wednesday, March 14 at Tundra Lodge in Green Bay

• Thursday, March 15 at Grand Lodge in Wausau

• Tuesday, March 20 at Holiday Inn in Eau Claire

• Thursday, March 22 at Glacier Canyon Lodge in Wisconsin Dells

Each session will be presented by Lynn Kuehn, an AHIMA Certified ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer and Certified Coding Specialist for Physicians (CCS-P). Identical curriculum will be offered at each session.

By participating in one of these important physician documentation sessions early in 2012, your physicians and coding staff will have the ability to work collaboratively on improving documentation for a longer period of time prior to the October 1, 2013, ICD-10 implementation deadline. This can result in more detailed and complete documentation, fewer queries from coders to physicians, fewer claims denials and/or less decreased reimbursement due to the assignment of a lower severity MS-DRG post-October 1, 2013.

Complete information and online registration are available at http://events.SignUp4.com/UnlockICD10.

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Hospitals Community Benefit Stories: 2012 Submission Schedule

WHA publishes community benefit stories from our member hospitals every week in its newsletter, The Valued Voice. WHA staff follows the priorities in the Wisconsin State Health Plan to select the stories that will be published in the newsletter. For a list of those priorities, visit: www.WiServePoint.org.

WHA focuses on one topic every month. The themes and submission deadlines are below. Stories are accepted anytime, but if you want to time your submission to run in WHA’s newsletter, submit it by the due dates given below to Mary Kay Grasmick at mgrasmick@wha.org.

WHA shares the stories with member hospitals, state legislators and with members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation. All stories are posted to the WHA website, www.WiServePoint.org. The American Hospital Association is always watchful for the stories in WHA’s newsletter and sometimes selects a few to include in their communications campaigns. Locally, the stories should be shared with hospital employees and included in external communications.

Direct questions about submissions to Mary Kay Grasmick at mgrasmick@wha.org, or Shannon Nelson at snelson@wha.org or call 608-274-1820. Thank you for your continued support of WHA’s community benefit collection and reporting efforts.




Due Date


Access to High Quality Health Care

Free screenings, outreach programs, parish nursing, free clinics

now accepting


Injuries and Violence

Domestic violence, SANE, rape crisis centers, child care seat safety, youth driving safety, farm safety

Feb. 15


Physical Activity/Adequate and Appropriate Nutrition

Obesity, exercise, diet, school programs related to nutrition, healthy body image, infant/child nutrition

March 15


Mental Health

Support groups, screenings, depression, education

April 15


Oral Health

Free or reduced payment clinics sponsored by hospitals, classes about good oral health, school programs, prevention

May 15


Acute, Chronic and Communicable Diseases

Hand washing, flu clinics, diabetes and other chronic diseases, heart, cancer, stroke prevention, treatment

June 15


Acute, Chronic and Communicable Diseases /Healthy Growth and Development

Continued from above, include any activities that relate to disease prevention and treatment provided communitywide

July 15


Healthy Growth and Development

Activities that promote safe babies, care for at-risk moms, help for babies born to at-risk moms, infant mortality, new parent classes

Aug. 15


Social, Economic, and Educational Factors that Influence Health

Programs that address racial disparities, age-related disparities, literacy, poverty

Sept. 15


Tobacco Use and Exposure

Prevention, classes

Oct. 15


Charity Care

Free care provided in the hospital


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Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits: Charity Care

Fear of a bill should never prevent a patient from seeking care at a Wisconsin hospital. Wisconsin hospital charity care programs provided $232 million to more than 700 patients each day in 2010. The stories that follow illustrate the deep commitment and continuing concern that hospitals have to their patients to ensure they receive the care they need regardless of their ability to pay.

The gift of wellness

Imagine the anguish you might feel if someone you loved desperately needed treatment that you could little afford. No one should be made to suffer. Charity or uncompensated care is a familiar line item—a number on an annual report—and yet what it truly represents is all the things money cannot buy. Hope for the future. The chance to regain health and live again. Charity care is about people helping people when they need it most.

Life can pose unexpected and difficult challenges.

Lawrence was laid off from his job of many years in November 2010, just after his father passed. As his search for work dragged on, he depleted his savings and assets. He had no health insurance when heart complications struck, resulting in an inpatient stay and $58,000 in charges.

As a single woman struggling through lung cancer with no insurance and no ability to work, Paulette found herself in $233,000 worth of medical debt. While fundraisers and family helped as they could with living expenses, little was left for her battle with this terrible disease.

Installing dairy equipment for local farmers brought Wayne much joy over his lifetime. Self-employed and the family’s primary earner, he was devastated to learn he had cancer. He had no insurance. While his wife took on extra work to help, there simply wasn’t enough to cover the growing expenses. Though Wayne agreed to secure affordable state health insurance to offset future expenses, he was $24,000 in debt.

The Rock County area has been hard hit by job losses following General Motors’ closure in 2008. Charles, just 46 years old, lost his job in cutbacks. To better himself, he went back to school. He was receiving $255 per week in unemployment benefits and had no health insurance. He was on the 90,000-person-plus waitlist for BadgerCare health coverage. When he experienced heart failure without warning, he found himself with $10,000 in medical expenses he could not afford.

In all of the cases above, Mercy Health System forgave the entire balance due.

Mercy Health System donates $32 million in uncompensated care and free services annually. What we strive to give, however, are the things that cannot be measured. Health care is mission-driven, and our mission is healing those who need us most.

Mercy Health System, Janesville

Beaver Dam Community Hospital helps man in need

Homeless for five years and unemployed for two, Steven Wright was at the end of his road.

Severe degenerative arthritis in his right hip was so painful he was unable to continue working his maintenance job. Four times the maximum dose of Aleve wasn’t dulling the pain and he could barely walk.

The physical pain of each step was compounded by the emotional hurt he suffered as he became increasingly isolated from friends and family. Feeling depressed due to his financial situation, he withdrew from his sisters, assuming they had lost respect for him.

"No money, no dignity, no respect, loss of family… I had no hope," Wright said. "But if I was able to get my hip fixed, I could be a man again. I would have self esteem again. Maybe I could lift my leg into my van, or be able to tie my shoe."

Just when he felt like he was out of options, Steven found Church Health Services of Trinity Methodist Church in Beaver Dam, Wis. In collaboration with Beaver Dam Community Hospitals (BDCH), they provided Steven with the new hip he needed to begin turning his life around.

"They believed I wasn’t worthless," Wright said. "They looked over all my problems and started to work. I know that asking to have my hip replaced was a tall request, but maybe now I won’t be in pain all the time."

To begin the process, Church Health Services coordinated the removal of an abscessed tooth with the help of a local dentist. Then on July 25, 2011, BDCH’s Dr. Bob Coe provided advanced joint replacement care for Steven’s right hip.

For Steven, the experience has restored his faith in God, and in the generosity of others.

"Everyone told me that God loves me. But how, when nobody else cared?" Steven said. "The rest of the world turned its back on me because of my social position. But BDCH and Church Health Services helped. And now, maybe I walk closer to God."

Through its Community Care Program, BDCH, Inc. provided $1,555,659 in free care to patients over the last fiscal year.

Church Health Services, Inc. was created in 1993 to meet the increasing health care needs for the less fortunate. BDCH provides diagnostic testing, surgical services, inpatient care and infusion therapy to Church Health Services patients. The BDCH Foundation has also provided materials and donations of time and equipment to support this much-needed service.

Beaver Dam Community Hospital, Beaver Dam

A clear vision

Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older. A cataract starts small. An individual may notice vision is blurred, like looking into a cloudy piece of glass. As the U.S. population ages, more than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020.

Tom is a 64-year-old homeless male from Kenosha who was experiencing seriously blurred vision in both eyes. He was seen by Dr. Capelli of the Aurora Family Clinic in Kenosha, who was very concerned. Dr. Capelli sent the patient, along with a written referral, to meet with a financial counselor at Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha to apply for the Aurora Helping Hand Patient Financial Assistance program.

Financial Counselor Chela Herrera met with Tom to explain the Helping Hand application. Chela explained, "Dr. Capelli’s letter confirmed that Tom’s situation was a medical emergency requiring immediate surgery."

Within days, Tom was approved for a 100 percent discount for the medical care he needed. But it was hard to reach him because of his homelessness. Nevertheless, Chela tried repeatedly.

"It was no minor victory when I was finally able to contact him," Chela remarked. "We were able to schedule him to receive the care he needed. He just turned 65, so I was also able to assist him with Medicaid and FoodShare program applications before he was discharged," Chela added.

Tom returned to the hospital two weeks later to update Chela on the status of those applications. "He told me that he was accepted for both the Medicaid and FoodShare. The news was music to my ears," Chela said.

Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha

Community Care gives cancer patient hope

When Lynn was diagnosed with cancer she was brave enough to go through treatment. She went through surgery and chemo and thought the cancer was gone. It was heartbreaking news to learn just a few months later that the cancer was back. Not only was the cancer back, but by now Lynn was physically, emotionally and financially broke.

When Lynn and her family came into our accounts payable department at St. Joseph’s Health Services-Gundersen Lutheran, Hillsboro, she was even too upset for tears. She was frail and weak. She was disheartened and had nearly given up. As Lynn began to speak, our representative Angie listened and began strategizing a plan for this patient. Together Angie and Lynn talked about the diagnosis, treatment, family, and financial status. Together they completed a family budget, completed the Community Care application, filled out an application for our local cancer charity H.O.P.E. and set up a modest, yet respectable payment plan of just $25 a month. Lynn was proud and would not take advantage of the system—she was going to pay out of her pocket for her care, no matter what. However, Angie was able to remind Lynn that she deserves help as much as she would give to a person in need herself. Lynn could understand that philosophy and was grateful and humbled by the care and charity extended to her.

Lynn has gone through another surgery and while her prognosis is still not good, her spirits are. Lynn always shows gratitude to her caregivers and to her community. She gives back as much as possible. Lynn is an inspiration to everyone who meets her. St. Joseph’s Health Services-Gundersen Lutheran is happy to be a small part of her progress and is honored to be able to help Lynn and her family while maintaining her pride and dignity.

St. Joseph’s Health Services-Gundersen Lutheran, Hillsboro

Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at mgrasmick@wha.org.

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at www.WiServePoint.org.

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