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State Legislature Nears Approval of Telehealth Improvement Bill

Legislature also advances physician licensing compact, health care worker harm proposals

November 07, 2019

Both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature met in Madison this week, with the State Senate handling a full calendar on Nov. 5 and the State Assembly currently in session at press time. Three WHA-supported bills are continuing on a bipartisan path that should lead to the Governor’s desk for final action yet this session.

Telemedicine Improvement
Highlighting the trio: important telehealth legislation that will greater incentivize this evolving area of health care. On Nov. 5 the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 380 on a voice vote and sent the bill to the State Assembly, which is scheduled to take up the legislation yet today. Following the Nov. 5 vote, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding thanked the Senate in this press release for embracing the proposal:

“Good health care policy in Wisconsin is more often than not achieved with bipartisan support,” Borgerding said. “We thank both sides of the aisle in the Senate for working together to move this important health care policy forward.”

It is expected the Assembly will approve the bill later today; the legislation is the culmination of three years of work by WHA’s Telemedicine Work Group, and includes the four recommendations regarding how the state’s Medicaid program should cover telehealth services:

  • Cover telehealth the same as in-person care when the quality of the care provided is functionally equivalent.
  • Catch up to Medicare in the number of telehealth-related services that are covered.
  • Cover in-home or community telehealth services.
  • Increase access to behavioral health via telehealth.
WHA sent out a HEAT alert on the bill to thousands of statewide hospital advocates who took time to contact their state representatives, asking for their vote in support of this telehealth legislation.

Harm to a Health Care Worker Penalty Enhancer
The Senate on Nov. 5 also unanimously approved Senate Bill 163, which creates stiffer penalties for the act of causing intentional bodily harm to health care workers. Since initial introduction the bill has been amended, at WHA’s urging, to apply to all acts committed against any licensed health care professional working in a hospital or clinic. Companion legislation, Assembly Bill 175, is eligible for floor action in the Assembly.

Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
The Assembly approved Senate Bill 74 in a unanimous voice vote late this afternoon during its floor session, allowing Wisconsin’s continued participation in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). The IMLC allows physicians to apply for medical licenses in multiple states without having to resubmit the same basic information every time. Wisconsin was the first state to process a medical license through the IMLC procedure; the bill removes a “sunset clause” that would have automatically removed the state from the compact in December 2019. The Senate approved the proposal during its June floor session, so the legislation can now head to Governor Tony Evers’ desk for final action.

While ensuring Wisconsin remains in the IMLC is important, so too is continuing the work to address concerns from WHA members that some professional license applications are taking a long time to process – in some cases those applying for a Wisconsin license are unable to treat patients because they have not received their license. WHA continues to raise these concerns with the state and regulatory boards to address this issue.

This story originally appeared in the November 07, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter