Fresh off another successful Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Advocacy Day, the April WHA board of directors meeting drew attention to progress on legislative priorities affecting the state’s hospitals and health systems.
Health Care Leadership Education Update
WHA Chief Medical Officer Chris Green, M.D., and Vice President of Education and Marketing Leigh Ann Larson shared details on a proposed WHA Health Care Leadership Academy developed in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin Center for Professional & Executive Development (UW CPED). Such a program was first discussed at a WHA board retreat in 2019, after which WHA sought further input from members on the need for leadership education and the topics that should be included in a course of study designed for future health care leaders.
Based upon feedback from the board, WHA will continue to refine the details and logistics of the program with plans to open registration later this year.
WHA Priorities in COVID Legislation Signed into Law, State Budget Remains Focus of Advocacy
WHA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Kyle O’Brien updated the Board on a WHA priority dating back to November that was signed into law as 2021 Wisconsin Act 10 on March 25.
Among the features of Act 10 that help hospitals and health systems continue their response to the pandemic are the following WHA-led provisions:
- Permanently adopting, even beyond the public health emergency, temporary licensure processes established during COVID-19 for out-of-state providers with a valid, unrestricted license in another state to begin caring for patients immediately;
- Providing payments to hospitals for Medicaid patients who are ready to be discharged from the hospital but await a post-acute care placement through Jan. 1, 2022; and
- Clarifying the ability for hospitals to deliver hospital services in a patient’s home consistent with a Medicare-covered service, like those approved under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Acute Hospital Care at Home program, through Jan. 1, 2022.
WHA is preparing member education on these policies.
WHA remains focused in this upcoming state budget on permanent reauthorization of hospital payments through the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program to avoid a $100 million funding cut to state hospitals during the next state budget. To that end, O’Brien discussed a WHA coordinated open letter
from 108 hospital and health system leaders from across Wisconsin asking the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee to reauthorize DSH funding in the 2021-2023 state budget. O’Brien also highlighted in-person testimony provided by hospital leaders at all the Joint Finance Committee’s public hearings on the budget bill held throughout the month of April.
Report from DQA Administrator Otis Woods
Guest presenter Otis Woods, who is the division of quality assurance administrator (DQA) for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provided reminders to board members on oversight issues related to their operations, noting that DQA has resumed hospital survey activities. Woods also reviewed for the board long-term care trends in Wisconsin.
Woods reflected on recent state and national activity related to and growing interest in “hospital at home” practices, including the provisions in Wisconsin Act 10 that adopt the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acute Hospital Care at Home waiver standards as state standards for hospitals and create an exemption from the home health agency licensing requirements for hospital at home services. These provisions sunset on Jan. 1, 2022. “Between now and the end of the year, we will be talking much more about this,” Woods noted.
WHA board members praised Woods for the flexibility and efficiency his division showed in implementing federal and state waivers to help hospitals with their initial and ongoing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO Susan Turney, M.D., noted the positive developments regarding hospital at home services. “We didn’t want a pandemic to have this come to fruition, but it has challenged us to push forward,” she said.