WHA Urges Congress to Boost Financial Relief to Hospitals, Include Health Care Priorities in Upcoming COVID Package

July 30, 2020

In a July 29 letter to Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding urged Wisconsin’s federal lawmakers to push for Wisconsin health care priorities to be included in the COVID package being negotiated between the U.S. House and Senate.
While the U.S. House passed a $3 trillion COVID relief package in May – the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act – the U.S. Senate waited until earlier this week to introduce a $1 trillion COVID relief package, the HEALS (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools) Act. With the two houses far apart on the total level of spending, it is unclear how long it might take for a compromise package to develop that both chambers can approve.
WHA outlined a number of priorities important to keeping Wisconsin’s health care system strong throughout this pandemic, chief among them being needed financial relief for Wisconsin hospitals and health systems. Of the $115 billion allocated nationally to health care providers from the federal Provider Relief fund, Wisconsin hospitals and health systems appear to have received only about $1 billion thus far, despite collectively experiencing more than $2.5 billion in lost revenue due to COVID. WHA is calling on Congress to appropriate an additional $100 billion, with particular consideration being given to hospitals that have “fallen through the cracks,” according to the letter, as they have yet to receive any special distributions such as “hot spot” or rural funding that were targets of previous federal disbursements.
Borgerding also called on federal lawmakers to increase the federal matching rate (FMAP) for the state’s Medicaid program, noting that 90,000 Wisconsinites have joined BadgerCare since the start of the pandemic, and about 230,000 total are expected to join by this time next year. “Wisconsin hospitals and health systems will face a significant decrease in reimbursement as more people switch from commercial insurance to Medicaid, which pays only about 67% of the cost to provide it services in Wisconsin,” Borgerding noted, while adding that the additional federal funding will help ensure states like Wisconsin have the resources needed to keep Medicaid fully funded during a time where the health care system is needed more than ever. “The prospect of further provider cuts from the state as it deals with budgetary pressures would create significant stresses on the health care system," Borgerding said.
In addition to financial relief, Borgerding noted the positive gains health care has made in expanding telehealth services during COVID. WHA is supporting the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act of 2020, which has been introduced by a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers and would permanently extend many of the expanded telehealth options under Medicare. Borgerding called on Wisconsin’s delegation to push for adding this legislation to the COVID relief package. “Put simply, patients will not want to go back in time to the days when telehealth wasn’t an option for many of the services they have the convenience of receiving via telehealth today," Borgerding said.  
WHA activated its HEAT network of grassroots hospital leaders and advocates urging them to contact their federal lawmakers in support of these and other priorities laid out in the letter, such as more support for behavioral health care, fair treatment for critical access hospitals that received Paycheck Protection Program loans, and a temporary pause of federal rules that contain cuts to hospitals or add to hospitals regulatory burden. WHA will continue to advocate for these priorities with federal lawmakers as negotiations continue between the House and Senate. For more information, please contact WHA Director of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter.

This story originally appeared in the July 30, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter