Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) addressed a room full of hospital leaders at WHA’s West Central Region 2019 Annual Trustee Forum in Eau Claire September 26. The meeting included hospital leaders from across Western Wisconsin, many who reside or work in Sen. Smith’s state senate district.
Smith discussed various issues, ranging from funding for broadband to supporting telehealth in the state budget, and the importance of having citizen legislators who can learn from experts in particular fields. Smith noted that as a small business owner of a window washing company, he has never viewed himself as an expert in health care and appreciated the opportunity to connect with health care leaders and get their perspective on various complex issues.
Smith also discussed legislation WHA has been promoting in the State Assembly and State Senate that would remove barriers to expanding telehealth in the Medicaid program. He noted that he supports making it easier for patients to access health care services in the setting that is most convenient for them and mentioned his support for funding in the state budget that increased rural broadband grants, noting that his house is one of many in his district that does not have reliable broadband. He said he knows constituents who would benefit from being able to access telehealth in their own homes rather than driving to the doctor, but like him do not have reliable broadband.
Smith also mentioned his concern about workforce challenges Wisconsin will face, particularly in health care, as the state continues to age. He said he supports efforts by WHA and others to update outdated state statutes and allow advanced practice providers and others in the health care workforce to work to the fullest potential under their scope of practice. WHA members expressed their appreciation for Sen. Smith’s work to advance this and other positive health care items in the recent state budget and thanked him for his willingness to listen to their input.