Senate Health Committee Approves WHA-Led Medicaid, Mental Health Priorities

Bills would fund provider care coordination and reform emergency detention processes to align with EMTALA

February 09, 2018

In one of their last actions of the legislative session, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee met February 6 to take up a variety of appointments and legislation, including two bills that are key WHA priorities.

The Committee heard Senate Bill 742, legislation that would authorize a grant program to reimburse hospitals and health systems for services provided to high utilizers of Wisconsin emergency departments. The goal of this legislation is to incentivize the creation of provider-based care coordination programs in hospitals throughout Wisconsin and expand programs that exist today. The Committee received testimony from Ascension-Wisconsin’s Cheryl Taylor and Aurora’s Jane Pirsig-Anderson, both of whom work with their respective organization’s intensive care management programs.

As mentioned in testimony by the lead authors of this legislation, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek) and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), the Ascension and Aurora programs have shown strong results and promise in the idea of provider-based care coordination.

“We need to meet these patients where they are, not where we think they should be,” said Taylor. “We help patients navigate the system by helping the doctor understand what the patient is saying and help the patient understand what the doctor is saying.”

Pirsig-Anderson said the legislation will “bridge a care coordination gap for Medicaid patients who have not responded to traditional case management” and said Aurora’s program has already demonstrated a significant reduction in high-utilizers presenting at the emergency department, with a 39 percent reduction at Aurora Sinai and a 68 percent decrease in utilization at Aurora St. Luke’s.

Senate Bill 742 was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously February 8. The bill’s Assembly counterpart, Assembly Bill 871, was approved unanimously by the Assembly Health Committee February 1. Both bills are expected to be ready for floor action in the Senate and Assembly yet this month.

In addition, the Senate Committee heard Assembly Bill 538 which would align Wisconsin’s emergency detention statutes with the obligations that currently exist for hospitals and health care providers under federal law. In addition, this legislation provides necessary clarification and liability protection to health care providers when they feel an obligation to warn about someone they believe is a harm to themselves or others.

This legislation was a key recommendation of WHA’s Behavioral Health Task Force. The bipartisan bill, which was approved unanimously by the full Assembly in November, was also unanimously supported by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee February 8. WHA expects the legislation to be ready for a Senate floor calendar February 20.

This story originally appeared in the February 09, 2018 edition of WHA Newsletter