Two state legislative bills with strong WHA support gained final approval in separate legislative bodies this week in Madison.
Advance Directives and Team-Based Care
A WHA legislative priority, Assembly Bill 287
addresses a regulatory bottleneck in Wisconsin’s health care workforce that results in unnecessary delays in acting upon a patient’s advance directive wishes for treatment. The bill helps address these delays by recognizing the education and training of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to make the medical diagnoses necessary to activate the patient’s written medical wishes. Under the bill, a physician must still confirm the diagnosis; a patient retains the option of requiring two physicians to complete any needed assessments.
The State Senate unanimously approved the bill in a voice vote Jan. 21; the State Assembly similarly approved the bill in November 2019. Gov. Evers is expected to sign the bipartisan bill into law.
Harm to a Health Care Worker – Penalty Enhancer
The State Assembly on Jan. 21 approved by voice vote a bill enhancing penalties for causing intentional bodily harm to health care workers. Senate Bill 163
increases the possibly maximum penalty for such crimes from the current Class A misdemeanor to a felony; the state senate unanimously approved the bill in early November 2019. Originally drafted to cover harm involving nurses, the bill was amended – at WHA’s urging – to apply to all acts committed against any licensed health care professional working in a hospital.
The Jan. 21 State Assembly floor action saw some attempts by Assembly Democrats to amend the bill further; these attempts were unsuccessful. While the bill had bipartisan support in both houses, it is unclear whether the failed late amendment will influence Gov. Evers’ approval.