WHA Board Sets 2020 Goals, Gets First View of New Workforce Dashboard

February 20, 2020

The WHA Board of Directors met on a snowy morning Feb. 13 in Madison, with new Board Chair Daniel Meyer, Aurora BayCare Medical Center President, gaveling the group to order and promptly thanking Immediate Past Chair Damond Boatwright, SSM Health Care of Wisconsin regional president of operations for his past year of leadership.

2020 Goals Approved
The board reviewed, discussed and approved an aggressive set of goals for the upcoming year, many of which are aimed at preparing for what will be a busy 2021-22 state legislative biennium that will once again require unified hospital and health system advocacy in order to sustain and improve the impressive accomplishments of the current biennium.

The 2020 goals align with WHA’s new strategic plan, which encompasses important areas aimed at further enhancing Wisconsin’s nation-leading, high-quality health care system, including:
  • Strengthen Health Care Funding and Infrastructure
  • Expand Access and Coverage
  • Improve Health Care Quality, Value and Affordability
  • Ensure an Adequate Health Care Workforce
In discussing the wide range of goals WHA aims to accomplish in 2020, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding highlighted WHA’s strategy of broad collaboration with other health care groups and advocates in order to support proactive, bipartisan legislation in a challenging political environment.

Workforce Dashboard Unveiled
Already starting to fulfill a 2020 goal, WHA Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice Ann Zenk joined WHA Information Center (WHAIC) Vice President Jennifer Mueller to provide the board with a demonstration of a new online data resource that will provide hospital leaders with an ability to “drill down” into their workforce and gain valuable information to support strategic planning efforts, collaboration with educators and training programs or grant applications to grow their workforce. WHA’s Council on Workforce Development and WHAIC collaborated to use already-available state, regional, local and hospital-level workforce data to build the Wisconsin Workforce Dashboard.

“Projecting where and how your workforce needs to grow is more important now than ever before as health care employers experience a dual impact from the ‘silver tsunami’,” Zenk said. “Not only are members of the large baby boom generation retiring from the health care workforce in numbers that subsequent generations cannot replace, there is also an increasing demand for health care being generated by a staggering increase in the elderly population.”

The Workforce Dashboard can be found behind the Resources button on the members-only landing page of the WHA website. As you begin to use the Workforce Dashboard, we invite you to direct any questions, comments or suggestions to Ann Zenk.

Planning Ahead: the 2021-23 State Budget; Health Care Costs
WHA Senior Vice President of Public Policy Joanne Alig shared that WHA will start preparing for the state 2021-23 biennial budget by reconvening WHA’s Medicaid Policy Work Group. The work group typically meets the year before the biennial budget is introduced to discuss member issues, concerns and priorities in providing care for vulnerable populations. Themes likely will include access to care, innovation, regulation, behavioral health and population health. The work group will begin meeting in early spring.

Alig also covered recent headlines highlighting concerns with health care and hospital costs, some of which contain statements that are simply false. Alig reviewed the data behind some recent studies and pointed out significant concerns with the underlying methodology. Unfortunately, Alig noted, studies based on flawed methodology may be influencing the perceptions of hospitals and paint a misleading picture of Wisconsin’s health care quality and value. Board members agreed that studies need to take into account the total cost of care, which includes not just unit cost, but also appropriate utilization and clinical outcomes to assess how well providers perform.

WHA Continues this Session’s Advocacy in Madison and Washington, D.C.
WHA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Kyle O’Brien shared with the board an update on various proposals moving through the state Legislature and two WHA legislative priorities that were recently signed into law by Governor Tony Evers. According to O’Brien, the floor calendars in both houses are moving rapidly as the state Assembly indicates it will be concluding work for the 2019-20 legislative session the week of Feb. 16.

O’Brien said WHA led two health care provider association coalition letters to Governor Evers requesting that Assembly Bill 287 and Senate Bill 163 be signed into law. Joining the various coalition letters were representatives of provider groups, nursing home associations, a hospice and palliative care association and patient advocacy organizations.

Assembly Bill 287, which was signed into law as 2019 Wisconsin Act 90, aligns Wisconsin law with the education and training of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to make the medical diagnoses necessary to activate a patient’s written medical wishes through their advance directive. This legislation was a WHA-crafted, proactive proposal to better utilize Wisconsin’s advanced practice clinicians in a team-based care setting.

O’Brien also updated the board on legislation that is yet to become law but has received significant traction in the last several weeks in the state Legislature. O’Brien reported that Assembly Bill 575, which creates a new physician assistant licensure statute, and Assembly Bill 841, which clarifies the ability for health care providers to offer prompt-pay discounts to patients, recently received hearings in the Assembly Health Committee and are expected to be heard on the Assembly floor soon.

Finally, O’Brien informed the board of other coalitions WHA has led, specifically related to changes to the 2019 Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council proposed legislation and a bill that would create new mandates on hospitals that provide opportunities for physicians to train medical students. O’Brien said both pieces of legislation are unlikely to become law this session

WHA Director of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter provided an update on federal transparency rules and surprise billing. He noted that health insurers and business groups have echoed the same concerns hospitals have previously expressed against proposals from CMS requiring both to release proprietary negotiated rates. Hoelter also briefed the board on WHA’s efforts advocating for surprise billing proposals that protect patients while preserving free market negotiation between insurers and providers. Hoelter had been in Washington, D.C. Feb. 12 with the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative and a group of rural hospital leaders while the House Ways & Means Committee was working on a proposal that WHA and other hospital and provider groups support. It would protect patients from surprise bills while allowing providers and insurers to continue negotiating toward resolution of billing disputes, using arbitration as a backstop. While this is a very positive development, there are still three proposals in Congress using a government-set benchmark rate to resolve surprise billing, and it is unclear what Congress will do to reconcile these differences. Hoelter said that a number of federal health care programs will see their funding expire on May 22, and this could create pressure for Congress to pass a surprise billing proposal as part of a larger health care package.

WHA’s Physician Leaders Survey The meeting concluded with WHA Chief Medical Officer Mark Kaufman, M.D. sharing the results of a CEO survey on physician leadership as a complement to the 2018 CMO survey; the results can help guide WHA’s physician leader development initiatives. Board members shared their impressions with the results and commended Dr. Kaufman for his continuing efforts to support physician engagement and satisfaction.

This story originally appeared in the February 20, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter