Each news article below shows only part of the news story. To view the full story, click on Read More below the story.
By Hoven Consulting
In February, Governor Tony Evers introduced his 2021-23 biennial budget proposal. The 1,000+ page document lays out the Governor’s preferred spending levels for all agencies and programs administered by state government for the next two fiscal years.
The challenge for Democratic Governor Evers is getting the Republican legislature to pass his spending bill. Many of the major tenants of the proposal, including marijuana legalization and accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars, have already been rejected by legislative leaders.
The bill is now in the hands of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, a committee compromised of 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats from the Senate and 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats from the Assembly.
There are three core stages of the committee’s process. The first occurred earlier this month when the committee invited select administrative agency heads to testify and further explain the Governor’s spending proposals as it affects their agencies. This year, the committee spent two days hearing from the leaders of the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Public Service Commission. These four agencies compromise a significant portion of overall spending, along with the Department of Health Services and Department of Administration, which were not asked to testify.
These hearings are largely fact-finding missions, with some political barbs thrown in from time to time. They provide an early glimpse on how the legislature’s priorities differ from the Governor’s.
As of this writing, the committee is now in its second stage of holding hearings around the state to gain input from the public on how to prioritize spending. The first hearing was held in Whitewater on April 9, the second in Rhinelander on April 21, Menomonie on April 22, and finishing with a virtual hearing on April 28.
The public hearings are typically long days with hundreds of individuals testifying on a wide variety of issues. They provide the committee with general trends on what is important to the public and informs the committee’s third and final stage.
In May, the committee will begin voting agency by agency on its own spending proposals. They will typically meet two to three times a week each week in May spending many hours each day debating and voting on each proposal. This is the most important stage of the committee’s process as it’s basically the final chance to fight to put a priority in the budget or keep a bad proposal out of the budget.
This year, we expect significant departures from the committee’s (legislature’s) final budget proposal compared to the Governor’s. While proposals are beginning to solidify, much remains to be seen on major spending initiatives.
Complicating the matter is the $3.2 billion the state is receiving from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Governor Evers has complete discretion on how to spend these dollars without any legislative approval. It seems the legislature wants to know the details of the Governor’s plan to inform their budgeting initiatives.
Once the committee finishes its voting in May, the bill will go to the full legislature for a vote in both houses. The goal is for that to occur in June as the fiscal year ends July 1. In Wisconsin, the governor has the ability to line-item veto spending bills. In other words, he or she can veto portions of the budget bill without vetoing the bill in total. In 2019, Governor Evers vetoed many items in the bill that eventual passed the legislature. That is expected to occur again.
In short, the budget process is a long, somewhat messy undertaking with priorities and ideas that seem to shift daily. It’s not really until the dust settles after the Joint Committee on Finance finishes voting in May that the public gets a good idea of a final proposal. Stay tuned for updates as the process continues.
The 2021-23 Wisconsin state budget bill was unveiled by Governor Tony Evers (D) in February and now resides in the hands of the Republican-controlled Legislature. Unfortunately, the $91 billion, two-year spending plan for the state as proposed by the governor DID NOT include a long-overdue Medicaid rate increase for skilled nursing provided in a home health care setting. However, lawmakers, who are currently holding public hearings on the Governor’s proposal, are expected to significantly rewrite the budget bill and can include a Medicaid rate increase for skilled home health care.
With that in mind, WiAHC is asking you to please contact your state lawmakers TODAY and urge them to support a Medicaid rate increase for home health care skilled nursing in the state budget bill.
Operating in communities through the state, home health care agencies offer a variety of health care services provided in the homes of patients and are integral to comprehensive post-acute medical care in Wisconsin. In addition to offering quality, convenient care to patients in the comfort of their own homes, home health care agencies provide cost effective care that reduces the financial burden for patients as well as public and private payers.
Unfortunately, current Medicaid reimbursement levels make it difficult to operate home health care agencies due to the problems it creates, including workforce retention and patient access challenges. In fact, the Medicaid reimbursement rate for Wisconsin home health care skilled nursing has not been increased in over a decade and has created a crisis in the industry. In short, the state’s home health care agencies must receive an increase to sustain their skilled nursing services in Wisconsin.
During the 2019-20 legislative session, WiAHC advocated for legislation to increase reimbursement rates to $94.10. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau found the increase would only cost the state $300,000 per year – or just 0.009% of the state’s $6.7 billion biennial Medicaid budget.
Even that modest additional investment will have a significant impact on home health care in Wisconsin. It will serve to strengthen the home health care workforce, increase patient access to care in their own homes, and ultimately reduce state spending by shifting certain patients away from expensive institutional-care facilities for post-acute care.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
E-mail your state legislators today and urge them to support a Medicaid rate increase for home health care skilled nursing services. Please feel free to use WiAHC’s sample e-mail when contacting your lawmakers. All you need to do is cut-and-paste it into an e-mail, but please consider personalizing your e-mail to include examples of your experiences that capture the workforce and patient access challenges created by stagnant Medicaid compensation.
If you don’t know who your state legislators are, or do not have their contact information, simply CLICK HERE and type your home address in the upper right corner text box. Remember to contact both your state senator and state representative.
If you have any questions on this WiAHC Advocacy Action Alert request or would like additional information on the issue, please contact WiAHC at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The April 6 spring election had two special legislative races on the ballot to fill vacancies in Wisconsin’s 13th Senate District and 89th Assembly District.
Current State Representative John Jagler (R-Watertown) won his bid for the 13th Senate District seat to replace former Senator Scott Fitzgerald who was elected to Congress last fall. Jagler captured 51 percent of the vote, while his Democrat challenger, Melissa Winker received 44% of the vote.
Once Jagler is sworn into office in his new role as state senator, Republicans will hold a 21-12 majority in the Senate.
In the 89th Assembly District special election, Republican Elijah Behnke easily defeated Democrat Karl Jaeger, capturing 63 percent of the vote. Behnke will fill the seat vacated by Republican John Nygren, who resigned from office in December 2020.
With Behnke’s victory, Republicans will hold a 61-38 seat majority in the Assembly.
Last week President Biden signed into law the Medicare Sequester Relief Act that pauses through the end of the year an automatic 2% cut for all Medicare payments to health care providers. The bill enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress, passing 384-38 in the U.S. House of Representatives and 90-2 in the Senate.
Congress initially paused the cuts last year as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and have made several extensions since. Although the moratorium on the 2% reduction ended on March 31, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has not been enforcing the cuts in anticipation of the Sequester Relief Act passing to ensure providers were not negatively impacted.
The moratorium extension gives health care providers much-needed financial relief as they continue to grapple with the pandemic that has stretched resources and created unprecedented challenges in the delivery of quality care.
Representative Rozar (R-Marshfield) is a freshmen lawmaker who was elected to the state Assembly in November 2020. She represents the 69th Assembly District, which includes portions of Clark, Marathon, and Wood counties. It also includes most of the City of Marshfield.
Prior to running for office, Rep. Rozar worked as an emergency room and medical-surgical registered nurse. She was also a nurse educator at UW Eau Claire College of Nursing before retiring from that position in May 2020. She continues to be employed by the Marshfield Clinic as a casual cardiac medical-surgical clinical RN.
She also continues to serve as a Wood County Board Supervisor, and currently chairs the Health and Human Services Committee.
In the Assembly, Rep. Rozar serves on the Assembly Health Committee and has been involved in the development of several health care-related legislative proposals.
Please CLICK HERE to read Rep. Rozar’s guest article written specifically for our Advocacy Newsletter. It is part of our effort to introduce members to the thoughts and opinions of state elected officials and policymakers.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of WiAHC.
As is well known throughout the industry, skilled home health care in Wisconsin is facing a workforce shortage crisis, which is threatening patient access to care. The growing problem has been sparked by stagnant Medicaid reimbursement rates for skilled nursing care in a home health setting. To draw long-overdue attention to the matter and encourage lawmakers to address the issue in the state budget bill, WiAHC members have written an opinion article to effectively capture the situation. The article, “Limited Workforce Leads to Limited Care Capacity”, has been published in news outlets across the state, including The Capital Times. CLICK HERE to read the article.
Operating in communities through the state, home health care agencies provide a variety of health care services provided in the homes of patients and are integral to comprehensive post-acute medical care in Wisconsin. In addition to offering quality, convenient care to patients in the comfort of their own homes, home health care agencies provide cost effective care that reduces the financial burden for patients as well as public and private payers.
ACTION ALERT RESOURCES:
As Wisconsin continues to ramp-up vaccination distribution, home health care agencies have and can continue to play a role in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. In fact, organizations can still sign-up to be become vaccinators. For more information and to enroll as a vaccinator, please click on the following link: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-program.htm (look for the drop down box labeled “COVID-19 Vaccinator Enrollment”). If you sign-up your organization as a vaccinator, vaccines may not be immediately available. However, you would be approved and ready to provide vaccines when they become accessible.
In addition to the vaccinator sign-up information referenced above, the following Department of Health Services web page provided tools, resources, and information to protect your communities and promote COVID-19 vaccine confidence: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-resources.htm. This information is geared towards employers and vaccinators.
(Updated 03/01/2021 to highlight the provider registration scenarios that help while filling out required Form B and Redistribution Forms.)
The Wisconsin COVID-19 Vaccine program is enrolling entities that wish to vaccinate. By enrolling in the program, entities and their vaccinators will be approved to administer COVID-19 vaccine in Wisconsin. To become a COVID-19 Vaccinator, all organizations must have an approved Form A and Form B. To redistribute vaccine, all enrolled COVID-19 vaccinators must also have an approved Redistribution Form.
Steps to complete enrollment and redistribution forms
It is important that you complete every step in the enrollment process in order to ensure your submission is processed as quickly as possible. Please use Google Chrome when navigating the enrollment tool. Email(link sends e-mail) us if you have any questions!
Step 1: Log in to the COVID-19 Vaccine Enrollment Tool(link is external) using your Department of Administration (DOA)/Wisconsin Logon Management System username and password.
Step 2: Generate your forms.
USE CAUTION: Once information is entered and site type is chosen, you may NOT go back to change them.
Step 3: Complete and sign your forms. (Updated 03/01/21)
Note: All signatures must be present on a form before submission. Instruction is provided within the forms by hovering over the blue bars in the form.
Step 4: Submit all your forms.
Note: You may submit your organization's forms from any DOA/Wisconsin Logon Management System login. Only submit the completed forms that were specifically generated for your organization with the reference number in step 2 above (this is listed at the bottom right of your generated forms).
Step 5: At various different stages of registration, staff may contact you to ask questions about your submission, correct errors, or provide instructions on next steps. Please respond to this outreach immediately so that we can continue processing your registration. This step may occur after your organization has been approved to receive vaccine.
Step 6: Once your information is verified and your WIR account is configured, the primary contact listed on the Form B will receive an email from DHS with next steps for your organization.
Your vaccine coordinator, back-up coordinator, and other relevant staff must complete the required Wisconsin Immunization Registry (WIR) and vaccine storage and handling trainings. These training videos do not use Adobe Flash Player. You will be emailed a survey to attest that your staff have completed the WIR and the Storage and Handling trainings. Your organization will not be able to order COVID-19 vaccine unless these trainings are completed and acknowledged within 5 days of receipt of the email with the attestation survey.
We also highly recommend your staff takes the CDC's Just in Time trainings for Pfizer-BioNTech(link is external) and Moderna(link is external) vaccines! See the Trainings section below for additional trainings.
Wisconsin’s home health care agencies provide high quality, cost effective skilled nursing care for individuals recently discharged from a hospital or skilled nursing facilities. Operating in rural and urban communities throughout the state, home health care agencies provide health care services including skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and home health aide in a patient’s home. Home health care services address a variety of health issues, from pulmonary care and neurological rehabilitation to intravenous therapy, wound care, and chronic disease management.
This convenient quality healthcare is also cost effective and reduces the financial burden for patients, private insurance, and public payers. In fact, when home health is the first option utilized after discharge from a hospital, studies found a cost savings of $5,411 per person among the Medicare population. Additional data shows home health care services lead to 26% fewer acute care hospital admissions and 19-30% in total medical cost savings.
Unfortunately, the skilled home health care industry is facing a workforce shortage crisis, which is threatening patient access to care.
Wisconsin’s home health care agencies are reimbursed by private pay insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. However, Wisconsin’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for home health services has been stagnant for over a decade, without a single increase. Yet over that same time, healthcare inflation has grown 32.3%, and the average Medicare reimbursement rates have increased by 26%. Medicare rates average $145.00 and Medicaid reimbursement for home health services remain at $85.54 per visit.
Such low Medicaid reimbursement levels create a critical workforce crisis for home health care agencies to retain essential skilled nursing staff and adequately serve Wisconsin’s home health care patients. Wisconsin home health agencies regularly lose highly skilled nurses to other sectors of the healthcare industry, mostly due to inequitable compensation potential.
According to the Wisconsin Center for Nursing, Wisconsin is well below the national average when it comes to RNs working in home health settings. RNs working in home health settings make up just 6% of the total nursing workforce in the state, while nationally that statistic is 13% of the total nursing workforce.
Wisconsin’s lagging Medicaid reimbursement rates not only create workforce challenges, they also negatively impact access to home health care services among the Medicaid population.
In short, Wisconsin’s home health care agencies have earned and deserve a Medicaid rate increase. Most importantly, Medicaid patients should be able to access home health services which increase quality of life and decrease medical costs.
By incentivizing home health care agencies to accept new Medicaid patients and increase capacity for home health care to attract new workforce, the state could reduce dependency on expensive institutional-care facilities for post-acute care.
On behalf of the patients we serve, the Wisconsin Association for Home Health Care urges the Legislature to include a modest increase in the 2021-23 biennial budget. It is time to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health care services. The downstream cost savings far exceed the investment and most importantly it will benefit all patients.
Lisa Kirker, RN, MSN, MBA
Wisconsin Association for Home Health Care
563 Carter Court, Suite BKimberly, WI 54136Phone: 920-560-5632 | Fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the Listserve today!
This is a member only benefit. Members must sign in to take full advantage of this great resource!