Lawmakers Move Health Care Legislation to Gov. Walker’s Desk

Assembly, Senate pass key WHA priorities on emergency detention and provider care coordination

February 23, 2018

Getting closer to the end of the 2017-18 legislative session, the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate both met this week to act upon several pieces of health care related legislation including a reinsurance bill that was included in Governor Walker’s Health Care Stability package.

The Governor’s reinsurance legislation, known as Senate Bill 770, received bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature after being amended by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) last week on a 13-3 vote. The JFC supported a substitute amendment to the bill, removing a mandatory lapse from the state Medicaid program of up to $80 million. WHA lobbied to remove this lapse in the reinsurance bill and asked the Senate and Assembly to adopt Senate Bill 770.

“Like five years ago, we still believe everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage. To make this an ongoing reality, it is clear that we cannot rely on solutions or answers from the nation’s capitol and should take action at the state level to mitigate premium increases and ensure choice and affordability for the individual market,” stated WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding in testimony to the JFC. “This is why we support SB 770, and the steps it sets in motion to sustain coverage expansion through a reinsurance program.”

Senate Bill 770 provides for a $200 million reinsurance program to cover a band of claims in the state’s individual health insurance market with the goal of decreasing insurance rates by 13 percent in 2019 compared to where rates would have otherwise been without the reinsurance program. This bill now goes before Gov. Walker, where he is expected to sign the legislation as soon as next week.

Emergency detention reform, provider care coordination move forward

Legislation developed as a result of recommendations from WHA’s Behavioral Health Task Force and Medicaid Workgroup both passed important milestones in the Senate and Assembly February 20.

WHA has been working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to circulate, pass and enact legislation reforming Wisconsin’s emergency detention laws to align with hospital obligations under federal law. Assembly Bill 538, which passed the Assembly in November 2017 and the Senate February 20, 2018, will require counties to receive approval from hospital staff before transferring a patient under a Chapter 51 hold to a detention facility. The bill also provides important liability protections for providers when they have fulfilled their duty to warn others about the dangerousness of an individual and provides clarification in Wisconsin law about a health care provider or law enforcement officer’s ability to share patient information with others to prevent or lessen a threat to others.

Assembly Bill 538 will now be sent to Gov. Walker for his approval.

In addition, the state Assembly moved forward on an innovative bill that would provide reimbursement for provider-based care coordination programs operated by Wisconsin hospitals and health systems. The bill, Assembly Bill 871, received a unanimous, bipartisan vote to use $1.5 million per year for hospitals and health systems looking to reduce utilization for Medicaid enrollees who frequent hospital emergency departments. The legislation, championed by Reps. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), has now passed the full Assembly and moves to the Senate for adoption.

WHA, nursing organizations oppose last-minute amendment “gutting” nursing workforce survey

In an “unfriendly” action to a technical agency clean-up bill, Rep. John Macco (R-De Pere) authored an amendment to upend Wisconsin’s nursing re-licensure survey that has existed since 2010. Wisconsin’s nursing re-licensure program is the “gold standard” for nursing workforce data across the country, providing a complete data set to show employers and educators trending data to better prepare for the future patient care needs and supply of nurses in Wisconsin.

In a press release from WHA and several of Wisconsin’s nursing organizations, WHA called on lawmakers to reject this amendment.  When this legislation came to the floor of the Assembly, Macco finally made a motion to withdraw his amendment from consideration allowing the legislation to move forward without this controversial amendment.

“The Wisconsin Hospital Association’s 2016 Workforce Report used the state’s nursing re-licensure data to show that 40 percent of Wisconsin’s nurses plan on leaving the workforce in less than 10 years,” said Borgerding in the statement. “This is just one example of how the survey and the information it yields helps inform hospitals and public policymakers and craft strategies to ensure we have enough caregivers in Wisconsin. Losing this data will make it very difficult to predict and react to looming workforce shortages and ensure adequate access to care in the future.”

“The final stages of the legislative session are always hectic, but the WHA advocacy and policy staff has been doing just a fantastic job these past few weeks advancing and achieving the remainder of our agenda,” said WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding.  “Our members are well served by this fantastic team—they are the best in the business.”

This story originally appeared in the February 23, 2018 edition of WHA Newsletter