WHA Responds to Ways & Means Rural and Underserved Task Force Request for Information

December 05, 2019

The Wisconsin Hospital Association responded to a recent request from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force Request For Information, recommending Congress explore ways to partner with hospitals and health systems on areas important to providing care.

In its letter to the task force, WHA recommended needed improvements in the following areas:
  • Addressing Workforce Shortages
  • Patient Volume Adequacy in Rural Areas
  • Quality Initiatives
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Telehealth
  • Post-Acute Care
  • Behavioral Health
  • Unnecessary Regulations
WHA recommended Congress consider adjusting or removing the federal cap supporting funding for graduate medical education to help reduce health care workforce shortages. Congress should also consider removing Medicare’s site restrictions on reimbursing for telehealth to relieve workforce shortages, as a recent workforce report released by WHA finds that we are not likely to be able to train enough physicians to keep pace with projected upcoming demand as the baby-boom generation continues to retire (see story on page 1). This demographic issue also impacts hospitals’ revenue in terms of having an adequate volume of commercial patients to offset the growing number of Medicare patients hospitals care for while being reimbursed at levels below the cost of providing care. This can also be particularly challenging to hospitals serving a high number of Medicaid patients, such as inpatient psychiatric units that serve very few private-pay patients.

WHA also noted the work of the Superior Health Quality Alliance (SHQA) and CMS’ important efforts to support initiatives to help hospitals improve quality of care. As hospitals and public health agencies collect better data and better understand how social determinants of health impact patient outcomes, this gives policymakers more opportunities to support efforts to improve the overall quality of health care.

Lastly, WHA recommended the committee explore unnecessary regulations that restrict hospitals’ and health systems’ ability to provide more telehealth services, prevent hospitals from being able to offer proper post-acute and long-term-care services, or hamper efforts to more efficiently utilize a hospital’s space by sharing it with other non-hospital providers.

WHA looks forward to working with policymakers on the Ways and Means task force to advance these areas of reform that WHA and its members have long supported. For more information, contact WHA Director of Federal & State Relations Jon Hoelter.

This story originally appeared in the December 05, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter