WHA Board’s Final 2019 Meeting Reviews Accomplishments, Looks Ahead

Governing body reviews 2019 goals while planning for 2020

December 19, 2019

Governing body reviews 2019 goals while planning for 2020
WHA’s Board of Directors met for the final time in 2019 on Dec. 12 at WHA headquarters in Madison. With advocacy at the core of WHA’s mission and the meeting being held in the midst of the 2019-20 legislative and congressional biennium, the group tackled a bounty of current issues while also reviewing WHA’s accomplishments for the calendar year.

Review of 2019 Goals Shows Widespread Successes
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding discussed how WHA has performed in fulfilling its ambitious list of goals for 2019. Thanks to vigilant attention from WHA members in partnership with WHA’s “second-to-none” advocacy team, Borgerding reported that WHA’s members can once again benefit from successful achievements of the 2019 goals.

Chief among the successes was WHA’s successful navigation of the state budget
process in difficult political times, with the state’s Governor and Legislature controlled by rival political parties. Despite the roiling political environment that often accompanies such division, WHA was able to achieve all of its Medicaid-related goals in the state budget.

Borgerding also discussed other areas comprising the extensive goals list, including proactive efforts on specific health care topics such as telemedicine, behavioral health, post-acute care and dental access.

Staff Briefs Board on Budget Implementation, Fall Legislative Accomplishments
Borgerding and WHA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Kyle O’Brien discussed recent announcements from leadership at the state’s Department of Health Services (DHS), including new commitments to key WHA priorities like Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding. These changes were made possible through the most recent state budget bill, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Tony Evers in July.

Borgerding reminded the board that the Medicaid DSH increase from the last state budget is funded for two years and will need reauthorization during the next state budget – something that will be a key priority for WHA moving into the 2021-23 biennial state budget period.

In addition, O’Brien covered various other elements of a package of reimbursement changes that DHS is expected to announce over the coming weeks. One, a psychiatrist/advanced practice nurse-psych evaluation and management code reimbursement increase, was released by DHS in early December and is now before the state legislature’s powerful Joint Committee on Finance for passive review. The reimbursement increase is intended to take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

O’Brien also covered several WHA priorities that have been enacted into law or are continuing to progress through the state legislative process. This includes a permanent reauthorization of Wisconsin’s participation in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, enactment of a comprehensive telehealth covered services and regulatory reform bill for Medicaid enrollees, and legislation that has passed the Assembly and is now on its way to passage in the Senate allowing an advanced practice clinician to join physicians in certain
decisions that fulfill a patient’s advance directive.

Borgerding underscored the strong partnership WHA has with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and the Evers administration allowing passage and signing of 2019 Wisconsin Act 56, the enacted telehealth reform legislation. Borgerding was asked to join Gov. Evers, DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm, State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling and Richland Hospital CEO Bruce Roesler to make comments during the bill signing ceremony at The Richland Hospital on Nov. 25, which can be viewed here.

Federal Advocacy Activity Continues with Important Issues Pending
WHA Director of Federal & State Relations Jon Hoelter provided the board with an update on federal surprise billing legislation and transparency provisions from a recent CMS rule. Congressional leaders have been attempting to attach a harmful surprise billing fix to an end-of-year spending package, and WHA recently sent a letter from its board officers and Transparency Task Force chair expressing concern. A recent announcement that the House Ways and Means Committee intends to work on this issue has made it less likely that Congress will be able to find agreement on this issue before the spending package needs to be passed.

Hoelter also shared an update on the final federal transparency rule introduced by the Trump administration. While a lawsuit filed by the American Hospital Association and other hospital groups will likely prevent the requirement that hospitals post privately-negotiated rates from going into effect, WHA is already looking into how it might utilize PricePoint to assist hospitals in properly following any future implemented requirements.

WHA Board Briefed on 2019 Health Care Workforce Report
WHA Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk discussed highlights and key takeaways from WHA’s 2019 annual workforce report. The 16th annual report heralds the arrival of the “Silver Tsunami” – the manifestation of the aging baby boom generation. Not only has the “Silver Tsunami” arrived, but the impact on health care – increased demand for care and a shrinking health care workforce – will persist for at least the next two decades. Wisconsin’s health care workforce is stretched thinner and thinner as Wisconsin citizens require more complex and intense care.

Board members confirmed that their organizations are feeling the impact of an aging population and a shrinking workforce. The board also discussed other key influences on the health care workforce, including the safety net Wisconsin hospitals and health systems provide, and the additional work required to leverage technologies like electronic health records and telemedicine.

Zenk described to the board how the report’s recommendations will drive WHA’s workforce agenda. The 2019 Health Care Workforce Report urges state policymakers to support strategically targeted workforce recruitment and retention, break down barriers to teambased health care delivery and use technology wisely, and take care to not only avoid creating burdensome new regulations, but find ways to reduce current regulatory hurdles hampering the ability to provide high-quality care efficiently.

PAC Meets Goal
WHA Vice President of Advocacy Kari Hofer provided a near-final year-end report for the Wisconsin Hospitals PAC & Conduit fundraising campaign. She reported 2019 goals for fundraising, disbursement, and events were met as of Dec. 12, 2019. Hofer thanked the members of the WHA board for their leadership and commitment to WHA’s strong political advocacy in 2019.

The board is scheduled to meet next on February 13, 2020.

This story originally appeared in the December 19, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter