WHA Board Continues Commitment to Advocacy, Leadership

John Russell Named 2020 Chair-Elect

October 24, 2019

Prairie Ridge Health President and CEO John Russell was named chair-elect for 2020 at the Oct. 17 WHA Board of Directors meeting in Madison. Active in WHA councils and taskforces since 2009 and on the Board since 2015, Russell chairs the Audit and Investment Committee and serves as a member of the Network Adequacy Council, the Council on Finance and Payment, and the Council on Rural Health.

Russell was named CEO of then-Columbus Community Hospital in 2011 after serving as administrator with Boscobel Area Health Care. He is a Certified Public Accountant and earned his MBA in 2012. His diverse health care career includes 12 years in public accounting working on a wide variety of health care audits and consulting engagements. He was also the CFO and partner in a start-up health care company that owned and operated rural hospitals in the southern U.S. He and his wife have three children, four dogs, and enjoy college athletics and camping.

Election of At-Large Directors

The following individuals were elected as At-Large Directors:
New At-Large Director (filling unexpired term)
  • Lisa Schnedler, President/CEO, Upland Hills Health, Inc.
Reappointed At-Large Directors, to serve three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2020
  • David Hartberg, CEO, Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinics (2nd term)
  •  Bernie Sherry, Senior VP, Ascension Health/Wisconsin Ministry Market Executive (2nd term)
  • Susan Turney, MD, CEO, Marshfield Clinic Health System (1st term, was filling unexpired term)
  • Mark Thompson, MD, President, Medical Groups - SSM Health WI Region (2nd term)
Quarterly meeting includes finalizing updated strategic plan; a report on advocacy goals attained or still in progress; health care economic impact report from UW expert

The Board meeting saw hospital and health system leaders from around the state discussing the latest WHA internal developments and external activities.

2019 Initiatives on Track
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding started the meeting by sharing the significant progress made on 2019 goals in a variety of impact areas, including successful navigation of the challenging political environment in both Madison and Washington, D.C. Borgerding highlighted WHA’s vigorous efforts during the state’s 2019-21 biennial budget debate as an example of WHA’s bipartisan approach to advancing sound public policy.

Borgerding discussed the importance of maintaining WHA’s PAC and Conduit political giving accounts as the strongest among state organizations. Several Board members agreed, pointing out the wide array of positives associated with strong bipartisan fundraising and distribution. (See the current PAC/Conduit update.)

Staff Update
Borgerding introduced two new members of the WHA staff leadership team: Leigh Ann Larson, vice president of education and marketing, joined WHA in August after spending seven years as Group Health Cooperative’s learning and development manager. Mark Grapentine is the new vice president of communications, coming from a 16-year stint at the Wisconsin Medical Society – most recently as senior vice president of government relations.

The Board approved the WHA 2020 budget as presented. This year’s budget includes a 3% increase in member dues – only the second dues increase in the last four years. During the discussion, WHA Senior Vice President of Finance/Chief Operating Officer Brian Potter recounted the in-depth dues analysis WHA staff presented to the Board in 2016. Notable among the findings was that WHA’s dues level is in the lowest third compared to all other state hospital associations.

Strategic Plan
At its August retreat, the Board strategized on an update to the organization’s strategic plan, including modifications to WHA’s mission and vision statements and setting goals for 2020-2022. A Strategic Planning subcommittee worked into the fall to finetune the recommendations and presented that report to the Board. Lisa Ellinger, WHA vice president of public policy, shared the subcommittee’s recommendations for the Board’s review.

The Board unanimously approved those recommendations and included the addition of values to accompany updated mission and vision statements. Borgerding lauded the Board’s efforts on these updates, stating that the new language fits with WHA’s mission as an influential, trusted and unifying voice in health care policy. The new language is now posted on WHA’s website.

Economic Impact of WI Hospitals and Health Systems:
UW Analysis University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics Professor Steven Deller addressed the Board on a report he has authored documenting the impressive impact hospitals and health care systems have on Wisconsin’s economy. The Report serves as a basis for a forthcoming WHA Economic Impact report scheduled for release before the end of 2019.

Reporting on the most recently available data (from 2016), Deller shared that health care is one of the fastest-growing sectors in both Wisconsin and the U.S. While total employment in Wisconsin grew by 12.3% from 1998 to 2017, Wisconsin health care employment grew by a robust 29.6%. That growth helped dampen the overall negative impact of the Great Recession, where non-health sectors saw slower growth.

From an employment perspective, Wisconsin’s health care footprint is significant. Studying employment figures from hospitals specifically and then the health care system generally, Deller reported that more than 15% of all jobs in Wisconsin relate to health care: 571,900 in all. Labor income totaled $32.7 billion – 17.1% of the state’s total – and total income is $45.2 billion, or 14.4% of the state’s total.

This story originally appeared in the October 24, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter