On June 17, hospital leaders from across the state joined WHA for a virtual federal advocacy day with members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. Meetings were held virtually again this year since there was no in-person American Hospital Association annual member day. A virtual issues briefing was also offered live and on-demand for WHA members to provide additional background on priority topics: the 340B discount drug program, telehealth and the health care workforce shortage.
Hospital leaders met with half of the delegation—Reps. Pocan, Fitzgerald, Steil and Tiffany and Sen. Baldwin—on June 17, as well as Sen. Ron Johnson on June 22 and Rep. Grothman on June 24.
The workforce shortage has been a hot topic nationally, and members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation noted they have been hearing from employers everywhere about how challenging it is to fill openings. Hospital leaders discussed workforce challenges unique to health care, such as a high regulatory burden and the long time it takes to train physicians. Hospital leaders thanked lawmakers for adding 1,000 new Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and asked them to support the Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021, which would add 2,000 new GME slots per year.
Hospital leaders also described how telehealth has been a vital tool in reaching patients throughout the pandemic, asking lawmakers to co-sponsor legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that would eliminate Medicare's geographic and site restrictions in federal statutes, in order to preserve telehealth gains that would otherwise end once the federal Public Health Emergency ends. A number of hospital leaders described how patients have benefitted from being able to receive their normal care via telehealth, and how it has helped health care providers better serve patients as well. Lawmakers acknowledged the important role audio-only telehealth has played, particular due to challenges patients sometimes have with broadband access.
WHA also advocated for the Wisconsin delegation to co-sponsor legislation that is being authored by Sen. Baldwin to protect hospital access to the 340B prescription drug discount program. S. 773 would ensure that changes in Medicaid patient mixes that occurred as a result of COVID do not lead to hospitals losing their 340B eligibility. Hospital leaders discussed the important role savings from the 340B program plays in allowing them to offer vital services in their communities that run at a loss.
WHA will continue to meet with the rest of the delegation next week.
Please contact WHA Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter with questions.