More Than 100 Wisconsin Hospital Leaders Ask Legislature to Reauthorize Medicaid DSH

UW Health’s Jodi Vitello testifies before state budget committee

April 15, 2021

In an open letter to members of the state Legislature’s powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, 108 hospital and health system leaders from across Wisconsin asked the committee to reauthorize Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding in this next budget to avoid a $100-million-plus cut in funding to Wisconsin hospitals.
“Throughout the pandemic, every function within our hospital was utilized or redeployed in response to this pandemic—all facets of our operations were tested,” wrote the health care leaders. “But when your constituents needed us, we were there.”
Hospital and health system leaders from across the state discussed how hospitals cared for Wisconsin communities throughout the pandemic, focusing on challenges hospitals faced to keep their facilities staffed and safe with rising labor and supply costs. The leaders said that many of these challenges will remain post-pandemic. “The solutions to these challenges require us to sustain, not cut, critical funding to our state’s hospitals,” they said in their letter to state lawmakers.
As reported on by Wisconsin Health News (WHN), Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) responded to the letter with a statement highlighting past support for the program and stating that he will “continue to support the program in this budget.” 
“Hospitals all across Wisconsin have faced an extremely difficult year, and they and their staff have battled the COVID-19 pandemic head on,” Born said, according to WHN.
The financial challenges facing many hospitals continue, Born added.
The hospital and health system letter went on to state core challenges hospitals face, including ongoing underfunding from the Medicaid program. “The pandemic should not skew anyone’s perspective on the fundamental reimbursement challenge we faced pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and will need to continue to address post-pandemic. Wisconsin’s Medicaid program under-reimburses hospitals for the cost of care they provide.”
The week before, UW Health’s Vice President of Finance Jodi Vitello testified to the Legislature’s Budget Committee during a public hearing held at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. According to Vitello, UW Health treated the 12th case of COVID-19 identified in the U.S. Due to its early involvement in the pandemic, Vitello said, UW Health is a leader in patient care, clinical research, developing protective equipment for staff and educating and supporting the community.
“Support from programs like the Medicaid DSH program made the above possible and helped us weather tremendous financial strain under the public health emergency brought on by COVID-19,” Vitello told the committee. “This was due to our increased costs and reduced revenues—a troubling combination in any business, but especially for a hospital that must remain open to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Federal aid has helped, as well, but has not offset the losses we experienced throughout the pandemic,” she continued.
The Joint Finance Committee will continue taking testimony in public hearings held over the next two weeks before they begin voting on elements of the state budget. After the Finance Committee recommends adoption of a budget bill, the bill is then sent to the full Assembly and full Senate for consideration before heading to back to the governor’s desk.
To voice your support of critical hospital funding to your state elected officials, contact WHA Vice President of Advocacy Kari Hofer or Senior Vice President of Government Relations Kyle O’Brien.

This story originally appeared in the April 15, 2021 edition of WHA Newsletter