Public Policy Council Discusses Dental Workgroup, Physician Assistant Legislation

Top political operatives debate outcome of November elections

April 20, 2018

Ticket splitters are going to decide Wisconsin’s statewide elections in November, according to two of Wisconsin’s top political operatives with Republican and Democratic campaigns who joined a meeting of WHA’s Public Policy Council April 19. Tanya Bjork, a consultant to campaigns like the Presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Keith Gilkes, a top consultant to conservative candidates and longtime adviser to Gov. Scott Walker, offered their perspectives in an engaging 90-minute question and answer session with Council members.

The two spent most of their time discussing Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race in 2018, where Walker faces an opponent who will come out of a crowded field of potential Democratic candidates. Gilkes pointed to what he believes is Walker’s strongest characteristic, that “when the Governor says he’s going to do something, he then does it.” Gilkes believes that is a characteristic Wisconsin voters respect. When asked about health care, Gilkes discussed Walker’s recent reinsurance proposal as a proactive way that—regardless of Washington’s inability to act—Wisconsin can do things to stabilize its own health insurance marketplace.

Bjork responded by saying that health care is an important issue for voters in this election cycle, not just in Wisconsin, but also nationally. She said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is becoming increasingly popular with the electorate, and she believes the Republican brand is not good on health care issues—most recently because of multiple attempts to repeal and replace the ACA.

Bjork pointed to elections across the country, including Wisconsin’s 10th State Senate District, where traditionally Republican legislative and Congressional seats have flipped from Republican to Democrat as a sign that 2018 could be a good year for Democrats.

WHA’s 2018 legislative agenda accomplished, Association now prepares for 2019

While the remaining portions of WHA’s advocacy agenda for 2018 have been enacted into law, WHA has already begun to shift its focus to develop the Association’s proactive agenda for the next legislative session, according to WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding. Borgerding reviewed the Association’s goals for 2018 and pointed to those areas where staff will be working with WHA members to develop policy recommendations, especially in Medicaid reimbursement, workforce and behavioral health care. The Public Policy Council will play an important role in vetting these policy recommendations as they are created by various WHA member workgroups.

Kyle O’Brien, WHA senior vice president, government relations, reviewed several WHA priorities that were achieved in the final weeks of the legislative session. Key among the victories was again defeating a proposed fee schedule in worker’s compensation. The legislation, which was a top legislative priority for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, was soundly defeated. In the Senate, it received a hearing in committee, but no vote. The proposal was not even considered in the Assembly. 

Legislation creating a WHA-backed Medicaid care coordination pilot program was also signed into law after being vetoed in the state budget (see related story above).

Another WHA-initiated proposal enacted in the final weeks of session was a package of important, three-years in the making reforms to the emergency detention process, including important protections for physicians and providers serving at-risk patients. 

Borgerding commended the entire WHA public policy and advocacy staff for their tireless efforts and commitment these past 15 months. “The record speaks for itself,” Borgerding said. “WHA’s members are served by one of the absolute best advocacy teams in Madison.”

WHA’s Special Needs Dental Workgroup focuses on barriers to care

Laura Rose, WHA vice president, policy development, described WHA’s growing involvement in dental access issues, with a focus on dental patients with special needs who require care under general anesthesia in operating rooms. Rose presented to the Council on WHA’s Special Needs Dental Workgroup, which has identified barriers to treating patients, including significant financial losses from government payers and locating a dentist or other practitioner who is willing and able to care for the patient. Rose said the workgroup will develop policy recommendations at its next meeting May 11. 

Proposal changes supervision relationship between physicians and physician assistants

WHA Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk gave a presentation to the Council on a draft bill designed to change the existing supervision relationship between physicians and physician assistants. During its discussion, the Council reaffirmed the importance of ensuring state clinician licensure laws do not become misaligned with Medicare payment rules and the importance of ensuring that hospitals and employers maintain the right to determine the terms of employment for that provider, regardless of any practitioner’s licensed scope of practice. Council members also noted this latest proposal may create confusion by creating overlapping or inconsistent obligations for employers. For more information about this proposal, contact Ann Zenk at or 608-274-1820.

Wisconsin Hospitals State PAC and Conduit Kicks Off 2018 Campaign

WHA Vice President, Advocacy Kari Hofer reported to the Council that the Wisconsin Hospitals State PAC & Conduit kicked off its campaign in March and has begun fundraising efforts for another important election year. Hofer discussed several statewide elections, including races for Governor, U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, as well as numerous races for the state Senate and state Assembly, indicating 2018 will be a busy year for disbursing funds from the Wisconsin Hospitals State PAC & Conduit.

The Wisconsin Hospitals State PAC & Conduit will only remain the top disbursing conduit in the state with the help of leaders across Wisconsin who support Wisconsin hospitals. If you haven’t already done so, please make your annual contribution at or contact Hofer at 608-274-1820 or

This story originally appeared in the April 20, 2018 edition of WHA Newsletter