Earlier today, the state Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1), legislation related to the state’s COVID-19 response. The legislation was released by Speaker Robin Vos earlier in the week and was approved by the full Assembly on a party-line vote on Jan. 7.
Included in the legislation are various provisions requested by the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA)::
- Providing the state’s Joint Finance Committee with the authority to expend up to an additional $100 million in state general funds during the federal public health emergency to respond to the 2019 novel coronavirus;
- Permanently adopting, even beyond the public health emergency, temporary licensure processes established during COVID-19 for out-of-state providers with a valid, unrestricted license in another state;
- Providing payments to hospitals for Medicaid patients who are ready to be discharged from the hospital but await a post-acute care placement;
- Providing payments to hospitals for certain outpatient care delivered outside the inpatient facility;
- Clarifying the ability for hospitals to deliver hospital services in a patient’s home consistent with a Medicare covered service, like those approved under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ recently announced Acute Hospital Care at Home program; and
- Providing the WHA Information Center with Medicaid claims data, helping hospitals better understand how care delivered outside the walls of a hospital is impacting care outcomes inside hospitals to reduce unnecessary utilization and Medicaid losses for hospitals.
WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding provided written testimony
to the Assembly Committee on Health during its public hearing on Jan. 5. In it, Borgerding referenced a letter he sent to the governor and legislative leaders asking for several of the policies above to help address various issues hospitals have faced while on the frontlines of this pandemic.
In his testimony, Borgerding recognized the work of WHA and our state’s hospitals in responding to this pandemic. “Our team has been working seven days a week for the past ten months to assist Wisconsin’s hospitals and health systems, which, under immensely difficult circumstances, have all done a remarkable job for Wisconsin. For everyone in health care this has been and remains the single largest challenge they’ve ever faced and hopefully ever will face … and they have unhesitatingly answered the call despite the challenges both inside and outside the walls of their hospitals.
Specifically pointing to provisions providing out-of-state licensure reform and additional payments to hospitals for nursing facility care and certain outpatient services, Borgerding cited the bipartisan agreement on these provisions that followed his Nov. 19 letter
to the governor and legislative leaders. “We want to recognize that these proposals received support from Governor Evers, Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader LeMahieu – and are now incorporated into AB 1. We ask for your support of these provisions, as well, and believe we can do more,” said Borgerding.
While several of the provisions of Assembly Bill 1 received support from WHA, the bill also creates a prohibition taking away the ability for an employer to require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition of employment. WHA has a long held that these decisions should be left up to employers, not the government, and has asked the Assembly to remove or amend this provision from Assembly Bill 1. While this change was not addressed in the Assembly, WHA will continue to work with the legislature to address this provision.
For Assembly Bill 1 to become law, the Senate must concur in the legislation and the Governor must sign it into law. As of The Valued Voice
publication time, media reporting indicates that Senate Republicans are not in full agreement with the Assembly on this legislation, and the Governor has indicated the potential for a full veto of the legislation due to other provisions included in the legislation.