The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) is calling on Congress to include much-needed relief for Wisconsin's health care system in a lame duck COVID package.
In a letter to Wisconsin's congressional delegation
on Dec. 3, WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding described how taxing the fall spike in hospitalizations has been on Wisconsin's health care system and detailed the need for additional support, noting, "Our frontline workers are burnt out, working seemingly never-ending shifts and caring for more patients with fewer staff due to the sustained high level of community spread. Some of our hospitals and health systems have reported more than one-fourth of their workforce out on quarantine or isolation at any given time."
Borgerding called on Congress to prioritize four main areas to help keep Wisconsin hospitals and health systems strong throughout the many remaining challenges of the pandemic:
- Flexibility in spending Provider Relief dollars as well as additional funding on an application basis for hospitals who need it most;
- Additional federal matching Medicaid (FMAP) support to help stave off a projected deficit in the upcoming state budget that could negatively impact Medicaid providers;
- Congressional action to permanently remove the Medicare telehealth geographic and originating site restrictions, even after the COVID public health emergency ends; and
- Funding for testing, tracing, vaccine distribution, and sustained public health infrastructure. This is important, as much of the CARES Act state assistance dollars for these efforts ends on Dec. 31.
WHA also sent out a Hospital Education & Advocacy Team (HEAT) alert on Dec. 7 calling on Wisconsin hospital and health system leaders to amplify these concerns and share their unique stories about the challenges and impact of COVID-19.
With Congress slated to run out of funding for federal programs on Dec. 11, recent developments suggest the body will pass a short-term, one-week extension to fund the government while it continues to negotiate a COVID relief package. Leaders on both sides of the aisle seem to have settled on a spending package of around $900 billion, but disagreement remains surrounding including liability protections and the appropriate level of state and local government aid. States like Wisconsin have relied on this funding for their testing and contact tracing efforts and will utilize part of it for vaccine response as well. However, current funding runs out on Dec. 31, warranting additional federal funding.
WHA continues to maintain close communication with our congressional delegation as talks in Washington progress. For additional details, contact WHA's Vice President of Federal and State Relations Jon Hoelter
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