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The Wisconsin Legislature's powerful budget-writing committee – the Joint Finance Committee – will hold four public hearings next month on Governor Tony Evers' proposed $91 billion state budget bill. The committee has scheduled three in-person hearings and one virtual hearing for the following dates and locations:
The public hearings will begin at 10:00 AM and conclude at 5:00 PM. Due to COVID-19, capacity at each hearing site will be closely monitored. Individuals wishing to testify at the virtual hearing will be required to register in advance.
The hearings will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the state’s two-year spending plan and suggest modifications to the proposal before the Finance Committee votes to make what is anticipated to be extensive changes to Evers' budget bill. Once the committee finishes its work, the budget bill will be considered by the full Legislature.
For individuals who cannot attend the public hearings, but wish to comment on the budget proposal, the following online portal is available for the public to provide input on the bill: www.legis.wisconsin.gov/topics/budgetcomments.
If you have any questions on the state budget bill, would like more information, or need assistance on how to engage in the budget process, please contact WiAHC’s government affairs team at Hoven Consulting.
The Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that individuals age 16 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 22, which is earlier than previously expected. This eligibility group includes individuals with medical conditions associated with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
The next eligibility group, which again will begin March 22, 2021, includes individuals age 16 and over with the following medical conditions:
Individuals with the outlined medical conditions can access vaccine through a variety of options, including community-based clinics, health care providers, Local and Tribal Health Departments, and pharmacies. Wisconsinites with a primary care provider may hear directly from their provider. Visit the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine options page or call the vaccine hotline at 1-844-684-1064 to learn more.
Additionally, DHS clarified current eligibility to include all clergy (as part of health care personnel who provide spiritual care to the sick), restaurant workers (as part of the food supply eligibility group) and further expanded public safety to include judges, prosecutors, and other essential criminal court personnel, in addition to public defenders.
Depending on vaccine supply, DHS still anticipates that Wisconsin will be able to expand eligibility May 1 to include all individuals age 16 and older. DHS will continue to monitor vaccination coverage statewide and partner with vaccine providers in order to provide an updated vaccination timeline for the general public.
First elected to the state Assembly in 2012, Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) represents the 15th Assembly District, which includes portions of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. The district also includes the city of New Berlin and part of West Allis.
Before running for office, Rep Sanfelippo spent all his professional life in the private sector. He was the owner and operator of landscaping business for over 20 years, and he still operates a small Christmas tree farm. In addition to drawing on his experience as a small businessman to champion pro-business, pro-growth policies in the Legislature, as the long-time Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, Rep. Sanfelippo has focused his policymaking efforts on health care issues and challenges facing the state.
Over the years, Sanfelippo has worked on numerous proposals to help improve the delivery of quality patient care, including legislation passed by the Legislature last session –but ultimately vetoed by Governor Tony Evers – to recognize and properly regulate direct primary care in Wisconsin. Under the direct primary care model, patients pay a monthly fee, with no further co-pays or deductibles, and in return receive unlimited access to their primary care doctor.
In the current legislative session, Sanfelippo has been a leading voice on COVID-19 vaccine distribution and authored legislation recently passed into law that authorizes pharmacy technicians with proper training and supervision to administer vaccines.
Rep. Sanfelippo took a few minutes to talk with us about a handful of topical health care-related issues and what his health care policy priorities are for the 2021-22 legislative session:
QUESTION:You are serving another session as Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, which plays a vital role in shaping health care policy in Wisconsin. With that in mind, what do you believe are the most pressing health care-related challenges facing the state, and what policy solutions do you believe are needed to address those challenges?
Rep. Sanfelippo: The immediate issue at hand of course is to make sure we are getting vaccines to everyone who wants them as quickly as possible. The administration made such a mess by unnecessarily bogging down the initial rollout in bureaucratic red tape and only shaped up once the legislature began putting pressure on them. We need to eliminate their bureaucratic barriers to vaccination and continue our oversight to compel them to improve.
The other issue garnering much of my efforts will be to combat the Governor’s ridiculous idea to legalize marijuana. The potentially dangerous health implications are very serious according to every health care organization and official, especially for our kids which makes this politically motivated proposal even more reckless.
QUESTION:Outside of the state’s leading health care issues you mentioned above, what other health care-related proposals do you or your committee plan to pursue during the 2021-22 legislation? For example, last session you authored the direct primary care bill that would have exempted direct primary care agreements between a health care provider and a patient from Wisconsin’s insurance laws. Do you plan to reintroduce that bill or other legislation that would modify the traditional delivery of medical care in Wisconsin?
Rep. Senfelippo: We will continue focusing on innovative ideas that expand access and increase affordability while keeping the decision making between the doctor and patient where it belongs.
QUESTION: Prior to COVID-19, Wisconsin was facing a growing shortage of health care professionals, from physicians and nurses to CNAs and mental health care providers . The pandemic has only magnified the shortage and has put additional stress on the delivery of care in Wisconsin. Are there any potential programs or policies you are considering or willing to support that would help address the state’s health care workforce shortage?
Rep Sanfelippo: We can continue to work on education and tax incentives to encourage individuals to enter the health care fields with the most critical shortages. In addition, we must look at MA rates for certain sectors. Many of these services have not had any or only minimal increases in the past decade making hard for businesses to compete with the rest of the community for employees.
QUESTION: As part of his 2021-23 budget bill proposal, Gov. Evers once again recommended Wisconsin accept the federal Affordable Care Act's provision for Medicaid expansion, stating the expansion would provide healthcare coverage over 45,000 uninsured low-income families in Wisconsin and reduce state healthcare costs by $630 million over the two-year budget cycle. The Legislature removed the initiative form the Governor’s 2019-21 budget proposal, and it appears likely lawmakers will once again remove the provision. What is your position on the issue, and why?
Rep. Sanfelippo: MA expansion is DOA in my book. There is plenty of proof by looking at those states which did expand in the past to see the disaster it has caused for state budgets. Furthermore, adding another 45,000 individuals to a system that is already struggling to provide enough care for members is a recipe for disaster.
QUESTION:Last month, Gov. Evers recently vetoed Assembly Bill 1, the Legislature’s broad COVID-19 relief legislation. As a result, several of the bill’s provisions have been introduced as separate legislation. What steps, if any, do you believe the Legislature should take next to address the public health aspects of COVID-19, the continued roll out of vaccines, and any additional federal funding the state will receive to address the pandemic?
The state of the Wisconsin Association for Home Health Care is strong, but we are only as strong as the members who make up our unique organization. And our continued success depends largely on passionate member engagement.
Thankfully, WiAHC’s upcoming membership wide Townhall Meeting provides you with a tremendous opportunity to stay connected with your association. The All-hands Meeting will allow you to stay updated on the latest WiAHC news, discuss ideas with your peers, help association leadership address challenges, and make collective decisions to move WiAHC forward and meet our major objectives.
In addition to general association updates and more specific regional breakouts, the Feb. 25 Townhall Meeting will feature a Legislative Update from WiAHC’s lobbying team at Hoven Consulting – Tim Hoven and Erik Kanter. Our lobbyists are committed to working with state lawmakers to promote programs and policies that improve home health care in Wisconsin. Their Legislative Update will include the latest on their efforts in the State Capitol to increase the Medical Assistance (MA) reimbursement rate for skilled nursing in a home health care setting.
Following the Legislative Update, Badger Bay Advocacy Director Michael Welsh will provide comments on the importance of grassroots advocacy and how WiAHC member engagement in the legislative process can augment our direct lobbying efforts and help meet the association’s legislative goals.
We look forward to seeing you and hearing your thoughts on the future of WiAHC at the Townhall Meeting. Please do not miss out on this opportunity to participate in your association – and remember to register.
Coalition launches new ad campaign promoting continued use of face masks, social distancing and hand washing as key measures in the fight against COVID-19
Madison, WI -- The statewide coalition to combat the spread of COVID-19 launched a new ad campaign today calling on Wisconsinites to stay vigilant in the effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The ad campaign that will broadcast statewide on digital and broadcast media stresses the importance of wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, and continuing to practice social distancing as key, simple measures in the fight against the global pandemic.
“This past year, Wisconsin came together to take on COVID-19. Our frontline workers, businesses, and communities stepped up. And you are doing your part,” says the narrator in the ad. “We will stop the spread, but the fight’s not over yet. As many await vaccines, and our health care heroes battle new strains, we can’t let our guard down now.”
The launch of the Stop the Covid Spread! coalition’s public education announcement comes amidst a trend of falling COVID-19 cases, which could create a false sense of security. New strains of the virus that appear to be both more transmissible and potentially more deadly are spreading worldwide. Vaccine distribution in the state is also being hampered by a shortage of supply from the federal government, meaning much of the state’s vaccination capacity is being underutilized. By continuing to practice safe behaviors, including wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands, we not only stop the spread, we save lives.
“Given the current pace of vaccination in Wisconsin, it will take some time for the vaccine to take hold in the state,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association President and CEO Eric Borgerding “And regardless of the political debates taking place in Madison, masks and other mitigation behaviors are critical factors in our COVID-19 fight. We’ve made great progress, and the health care community is very thankful for all that Wisconsin has done to slow COVID down, but we need to keep at it - mask up, maintain social distance, and wash hands.”
Since its launch in October, the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition has advanced an aggressive campaign encouraging the use of crucial safety measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coalition messaging has included public education announcements featuring a wide range of Wisconsin voices, including frontline health care workers from health systems throughout Wisconsin, members of the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Congressman Mark Pocan, and UW System President Tommy Thompson, many of whom appear in the most recent ad.
“We are incredibly proud of the hard work and sacrifice that Wisconsinites have made over the past year, from the frontline workers in so many critical industries to the doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel fighting this virus on a daily basis,” said Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President & CEO Kurt Bauer. “It is time to double down on our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. We must continue to wear a mask, wash our hands and practice social distancing.”
The “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition currently includes more than 135 of Wisconsin’s leading health care, business, and advocacy organizations. Notable coalition members include the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, Green Bay Packers, and representatives of local governments, chambers of commerce, and visitors bureaus from every corner of the state. The organizations have joined together with a shared goal of furthering public education about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin and the critical need for preventative measures. A full list of member organizations is below.
You can watch the new ad at: https://youtu.be/V3W0P0KY41g.
The State of Wisconsin is offering BinaxNOW point of care antigen tests to a variety of facility types. The antigen test is best used in outbreak testing and testing of symptomatic individuals. Lab-based molecular testing continues to be the “gold-standard”. The BinaxNOW tests may be appropriate if preferred testing is not available in a timely manner. Supplies provided by the state are in addition to BinaxNOW tests distributed directly to the facilities by HHS.
Facilities must qualify to receive additional allocation:
If inventory allows, additional opportunities for BinaxNOW tests will be made available via a similar request process.
How to request BinaxNOW tests
Your facility may request a two week supply to support staff and resident testing strategy; tests are not intended to test visitors and family. Please size your order to reflect only what you need from the state.
If your organization would like to request BinaxNOW tests from the state, please fill out the request form: BinaxNOW Antigen Test Request. Please submit your order request by close of business Monday, January 18.
If the state receives additional allocations of tests in the future, they may also be made available via a similar request process and you will be notified when they are available.
For questions please contact: for DHSCOVIDBinax@dhs.wisconsin.gov
State residents can sign up for weekly emails containing updates, news, and resources
The Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today a newsletter the public can sign up for to get direct information about the COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout. Every Friday, a COVID-19 update newsletter will be sent via email to people who sign up to receive it. Registration is now open, and archived copies of the weekly newsletter will also be available.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have remained committed to keeping the residents of Wisconsin as informed as possible,” said Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “The more quality information we have, the more effective we can be in making healthy and safe choices. That is why we have regularly updated data dashboards and science-based guidance on our website, and it is also why we want to add a weekly newsletter to our communications toolbox.”
Reminders and updates for members:
Madison, WI -- The statewide coalition to combat the spread of COVID-19 is encouraging Wisconsin residents to keep it up on COVID as statewide positivity and hospitalization rates show an encouraging downward trend. As vaccinations begin to be distributed in the state, the leaders of the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition are urging Wisconsinites to remain vigilant in practicing safe behaviors to ensure we continue to curtail the spread of the virus.
The efforts of the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition to-date have resulted in significant amplification of public health messaging focused on curbing the spread of COVID-19. Since its launch in October, the coalition has produced six public education announcements encouraging safe behaviors. These spots have achieved an estimated audience reach of well over 30 million on statewide television and radio. On digital platforms, coalition ads have generated over 16 million ad impressions and reached more than six million devices across the state.
“We are encouraged by a recent reduction in cases and hospitalizations, which show that safe practices are making a difference in Wisconsin,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association President and CEO Eric Borgerding. “On behalf of the coalition, we say, “Thank you!” to the people of Wisconsin for taking the necessary precautions to curb the spread of COVID. But we cannot stop now. Over the next several months as vaccines are made available to the general public, we need to keep our guard up and continue to wash hands, wear masks and maintain social distance.
Since its launch in October, the “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition has advanced an aggressive campaign encouraging the use of crucial safety measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coalition messaging has included public education announcements featuring a wide range of Wisconsin voices, including frontline health care workers from health systems throughout Wisconsin, members of the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Congressman Mark Pocan, and UW System President Tommy Thompson.
“Wisconsinites have come together to fight the common enemy of COVID and get our state heading in the right direction,” said Wisconsin Counties Association Executive Director Mark D. O’Connell. “Vaccines are coming, but we can’t stop now. The next few months will be critical and we encourage everyone to do their part to slow the numbers even more.”
The “Stop the COVID Spread!” coalition currently includes more than 125 of Wisconsin’s leading health care, business, and advocacy organizations. Notable coalition members include the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, Green Bay Packers, and representatives of local governments, chambers of commerce, and visitors bureaus from every corner of the state. The organizations have joined together with a shared goal of furthering public education about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin and the critical need for preventative measures.
For more information about the Stop the Spread coalition and the importance of safe behaviors for both public and state economic health, visit www.wha.org/stopthecovidspread
National Association for Home Care & Hospice
WHEREAS, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with unprecedented health challenges that affect every element of life;
WHEREAS, the health care community must utilize all resources available to provide care and to limit the spread of the deadly virus in the interest of public health and to be consistent with the ethical principle of “do no harm”;
WHEREAS, the home care and hospice community has been a leader in infection control while serving infected and non-infected patients;
WHEREAS, an emerging resource that may provide significant protection from COVID-19 virus infections is the availability and access to vaccine immunizations;
WHEREAS, the Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that vaccination of all home care and hospice personnel, along with other health care personnel, is the highest priority as a matter in containing and controlling the spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus;
WHEREAS, immunization of home care staff, both clinicians with direct contact with infected patients as well as all other home care staff, may help prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, reduce risks of infirmity and death among the home care patients, and protect health care staff so they may be available to provide care to the overall patient population in home care:
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