Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), met with local hospital leaders at Bay Area Medical Center, Marinette, recently to discuss Medicaid funding.
During their meeting, participants stressed the importance of improving Wisconsin’s inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates, which resulted in over $1 billion statewide that went unpaid to Wisconsin hospitals for treating Medicaid patients. Hospital leaders from the area also discussed their concerns with Congress’ recent actions to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commending Nygren for two recent public statements he made encouraging Congress to embrace the "Wisconsin model" for coverage expansion and not disadvantage Wisconsin’s Medicaid reform plan in the process.
Ed Harding, president/CEO of Bay Area Medical Center reiterated the same concerns during his public testimony before the Joint Finance Committee’s budget hearing held April 21 in Marinette.
"The main tool that states can use to offset these Medicaid losses is the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program," Harding’s testimony stated. "As you create your priorities for this budget, we ask that you make health care a top priority by improving Medicaid reimbursement."
Mike Schafer, president/CEO of Spooner Health, testified April 18 at the JFC’s public hearing held in Spooner. During his testimony, Schafer also stressed Medicaid reimbursement as well as the circumstances rural communities and hospitals face, especially related to their health care workforce. Schafer also testified about the need to support hospitals that are ineligible for DSH but still serve a high number of low-income patients on Medicaid in rural communities.
"Wisconsin’s rural hospitals face unique challenges, the most significant of which is an aging patient mix and an aging workforce," read a letter submitted to the JFC by Schafer and 16 other hospital leaders from the region. "This problem impacts health care delivery on both the supply and demand side of the equation, as demand for services increases and the labor market (supply of care) shrinks due to retirements. We applaud the work of the Rural Wisconsin Initiative to help address these significant challenges we face in rural Wisconsin."
The Joint Finance Committee has now completed its round of six public hearings. Close to 10 Wisconsin hospital leaders testified at these JFC hearings statewide. An additional 50 hospital leaders from across the state submitted joint letters to the Committee, which urged JFC to make Medicaid funding a priority through increased DSH program funding, mental health funding and targeted rural and workforce initiatives.