Celebrating 100 Years: Thoughts from Steve Brenton, WHA President 2002-2014
Stephen F. Brenton became president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association on January 2, 2002, bringing with him an appreciation for community hospitals and an ability to guide an association to achieve positive change. “Wisconsin was fortunate to have such a strong leader during a transformative time in health care that saw Wisconsin hospitals become national leaders in quality, price transparency, and efficient health care delivery,” said Eric Borgerding, current WHA President and CEO. “One of the best phone calls I have ever received was the one I got from Steve, late in 2001, to discuss joining the new team he was building at WHA. For the next 14 years it was an honor and true privilege to work with and learn from him, to fight in the advocacy trenches with someone who always had your back, and to this day call him one of my good friends.”
The early 2000s saw WHA rapidly evolve into an association of local and regional health systems with community hospitals at their core. That dynamic meant that issues related to provider-owned health plans, physician workforce challenges and promoting health care value were added to the roster of WHA advocacy and programming priorities.
Important advocacy “wins” during the era included:
1) The quashing of a state budget amendment in 2002 to “ban hospital construction” projects. Importantly, this win brought an end to two decades of on-again, off-again legislative efforts to severely regulate hospital finances and local capital investments.
2) Privatization of health care data occurred in 2003, as did the birth of the WHA Information Center, which has become a credible source for health care data solutions.
3) Reporting of hospital safety and quality measures emerged in 2004 with Wisconsin being recognized as the first state in the nation to voluntarily report this information.
4) Restoring the medical malpractice noneconomic damages cap in 2006 was a landmark, bi-partisan reversal of an ill-advised 2004 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision.
5) Constructing an assessment on hospitals in 2007 has provided billions of dollars that have been used to fill, in part, chronic Medicaid payment shortfalls.
6) The emergence of sustainable funding streams have financed new residency programs and helped lead to the formation of two new satellite medical schools that are bringing physicians to traditionally medically underserved areas.
7) The creation of the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce (WCMEW), which has become a “go to” source of important policy work that addresses current and future primary care access issues.
Significantly, these sustainable achievements have evolved and improved over the past decade. Most were achieved through collaboration with partners within Wisconsin’s health care ecosystem. And in each case, they resulted from the work of an extraordinary staff, a forward-looking Board of Directors and an engaged membership.
It was a great honor to serve as WHA chair in 2011. I had the pleasure of working with Steve Brenton during the time that the Medicaid assessment was being discussed with Governor Doyle. We were successful in our efforts.
While the success was important to all Wisconsin hospitals, perhaps more important was the unity that was created among hospitals across the state, as we worked together on an important issue.
Congratulations to WHA on its 100th Anniversary. And many thanks for all of the excellent work on behalf of its members for the past century.
Former President and CEO, Aurora Health Care
This story originally appeared in the November 19, 2020 edition of WHA Newsletter