In a letter sent to the Governor and legislative leaders on November 19,
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding called for specific actions from our state-elected officials to support hospitals and our state’s health care workforce as rampant community spread has unfortunately cast Wisconsin into the national spotlight with new cases overwhelming hospital capacity and straining our health care workforce.
“We know that all elected officials want to make Wisconsin a better place, “ Borgerding said in the letter. “While our policymakers may disagree on how to accomplish this, we believe you all share the same motivation and intention to preserve and improve the quality of life we enjoy in Wisconsin.”
Providing Wisconsin’s latest COVID-19 statistics showing exponential growth in cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the state, Borgerding wrote, “With few tools available right now to curb spread other than increasingly urgent public appeals, our COVID numbers are growing rapidly and predict, quite accurately so far, a health care crisis in Wisconsin that without significant, swift, and unified action will become a catastrophe,” wrote Borgerding. “This is hard to fathom for many across the state, but for those fighting this ever-growing battle in our hospitals, the data simply illustrate the human tragedy playing out in front of them every day.”
Borgerding then called on Democratic and Republican state leaders to cooperate on quick, decisive actions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19; addressing the state’s urgent health care workforce shortage, providing critically needed financial and human resources to our state’s hospitals, creating additional alternate care facility capacity for post-acute care, and streamlining Medicaid regulations that can pose a barrier to care.
Earlier in the week, Governor Tony Evers and the top-ranking leader in the State Assembly, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), separately discussed plans to propose legislation addressing Wisconsin’s continued needs in its fight against COVID-19.
Gov. Evers’ team released draft legislation to the media, which provides a more detailed description of the Governor’s proposal—including over $400 million for the state Department of Administration to continue its COVID-related operations into the first quarter of 2021. While this funding covers several areas of the state’s response, it is primarily to support COVD-19 testing, contact tracing and hospital system surge capacity support, including funding the operations of the state’s Alternate Care Facility in West Allis.
Speaker Vos held a media availability in the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 17 to generally describe proposals he would discuss with the Governor. According to a media release by Vos, the ideas include “building a robust testing system, doubling the number of contact tracers, assisting the healthcare industry, ensuring an efficient distribution of a COVID vaccine, requiring Unemployment Insurance reform and helping small businesses.”
Wisconsin has received $2 billion from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, which has been the primary funding source for most of the state’s COVID response operations, but this federal funding expires as of December 31, 2020.
With federal action becoming increasingly uncertain before the end of 2020, Evers’ and Vos’ respective announcements signal a willingness for the Governor and Republican leaders to meet in the coming days and weeks—possibly entertaining the idea of passing legislation in December to address urgent and critical government operations that need to continue through at least the first quarter of 2021.