In an Oct. 15 letter
to members of Wisconsin's federal congressional delegation, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding urged lawmakers to make supporting Wisconsin's health care system a priority in the upcoming federal budget reconciliation package.
Noting that hospitals and health systems continue to be stressed by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Borgerding laid out six priority areas for Congress to address, including:
- Prioritizing Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan subsidies over Medicaid lookalike plans that will not benefit Wisconsin;
- Permanently removing Medicare’s statutory barriers to telehealth;
- Providing one-time flexibility for 340B eligibility due to COVID patient-mix changes;
- Helping to ensure the health care workforce can catch up to demand for care;
- Adequately reimbursing new rural health clinics that submit quality metrics; and
- Making hospitals whole for the cost of aiding Operation Allies Welcome.
In addressing the Medicaid coverage gap, Borgerding questioned what benefit a federally administered Medicaid lookalike program would offer a state like Wisconsin, which already has no coverage gap but would ostensibly see some people kicked off private insurance and put onto a Medicaid lookalike program. This would shift the cost of care onto health care providers given that they would see reimbursements plummet while providing the same level of care. Instead, Borgerding urged lawmakers to put more effort into understanding why those already eligible for insurance coverage are not accessing it, and to use federal funding to enhance ACA marketplace subsidies that will be most likely to achieve coverage gains.
WHA also asked lawmakers to support the priorities its members have advocated in WHA virtual Federal Advocacy Day meetings over the summer months, particularly in the areas of telehealth, 340B and the health care workforce. With the widespread bipartisan support for continuing telehealth flexibilities after the public health emergency ends, WHA urged Congress to permanently eliminate the geographic and site restrictions that WHA has been advocating for since before COVID came into play. Additionally, WHA asked lawmakers to advocate for legislation
authored by U.S. Sen. Baldwin that would give Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) one-time flexibility to ensure changes in COVID patient mixes did not threaten their eligibility for the 340B discount drug program. And given the severe staffing shortages hospitals have been dealing with under COVID, WHA urged support of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021
, which would provide an average of 40 additional Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) slots per state per year for the next five years.
In addition to these priorities, WHA also urged lawmakers to support rural health and the hospitals that have been aiding the Afghan guests temporarily housed at Fort McCoy. WHA asked its delegation to support restoring cost-based funding for provider-based rural health clinics, something that became an issue when the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act decreased reimbursement rates. This could threaten future rural health clinic viability and lead to fewer choices for rural Wisconsinites if not addressed. WHA also urged lawmakers to support appropriating a small fund to cover costs and expenses for hospitals that have supported Operation Allies Welcome, including the Wisconsin hospitals that have supported the health care of guests at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. As part of this effort, WHA urged lawmakers to provide immediate federal support to resolve the post-acute care staffing crisis these and other hospitals have dealt with. Wisconsin currently has hundreds of patients cleared to leave the hospital that cannot find a nursing home willing to accept them and provide follow-up care. Resolving this crisis would immediately free up space to care for patients in need of hospital care.
WHA will continue to advocate for these issues as work proceeds on the reconciliation bill and other federal funding packages in Congress. Contact WHA Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter