Session Recap: Healthcare
Despite the challenges managed by the healthcare industry over the last six months, the legislature’s actions related to healthcare this session have been very strong. The current state budget includes significant increases in reimbursement rates for personal care workers and nursing homes. We also passed several very helpful bills.
We dedicated $1.6 billion for healthcare access and care for those who need it most in the current state budget. Healthcare is one of the largest components of the state budget. We increased healthcare access and affordability by committing $1.6 billion to expand access and care. The budget includes increases in these key areas:
- Nursing Home Reimbursement Rates – we increased funding by $30 million over the biennium. This is a 6% increase. We also increased the acuity rate as part of the Medical Assistance cost to continue by 1%.
- Personal Care Worker Rates – we increased funding for personal care workers by $37 million over the biennium. We increased the current hourly rate from $16.73 per hour to $18.24 starting July 1, 2019.
- Direct Caregivers in Family Care – we increased funding by $27 million over the biennium. We more than doubled the base funding for the direct care workforce.
- Children & Family Aids – We dramatically increased funding for these programs by $30.5 million. These dollars support our counties and social workers who are facing incredible challenges caring for children of families in crisis.
- Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding – We increased funding for qualifying hospitals by $60 million over the biennium. We also increased the maximum payment from $4.6 million to $9.6 million to meet increasing needs.
- Rural Critical Care Hospital Supplement – We increased funding by $5.5 million over the biennium and changed the definition to expand the program to more hospitals. In the 17th District, these increases will benefit Gunderson Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinic and Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County.Following the passage of the state budget, we also worked on a number of bills that improve healthcare. I personally authored – and passed – Act 26, which provided the framework for the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) grant program for modernizing 911. I also authored Act 100, which created a Physical Therapist Licensing Compact so that Wisconsin Physical Therapists can benefit from multi-state licensing options and we can recruit licensed therapists from other states. This is especially relevant for the 17th Senate District because we border Iowa and Illinois.
I also held four summits with rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers throughout the 17th Senate District. As a result of these conversations, I authored three bills to support and improve rural EMS such as a bill to waive the National Exam for entry-level EMS providers, make the Funding Assistance Program (FAP) whole and a bill to streamline processes and requirements. Unfortunately, these bills did not complete the legislative process, but I hope to bring them back in the future.
Again, despite the challenges faced by healthcare in Wisconsin this year, we have also improved access and funding for healthcare providers and services throughout the state. Our rural hospitals and healthcare providers have worked hard to rebuild access and stability this summer and it is important to know that they are ready and able to serve you.
Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) represents Wisconsin’s 17th Senate District.