While the Legislature as a whole is focusing its energy on the budget and COVID-19 response, members are beginning to introduce bills – more than 230 bills total. This starts the slow trickle of bill introductions which we monitor for impact on Meriter, our employees, patients, and communities.
Budget: Last week, Governor Evers delivered his 2021-23 biennial budget address. The Governor’s budget proposal contained several Meriter priorities and areas of interest, including additional funding for mental health services, Disproportionate Share Hospital funding increases, telehealth and broadband support, and expansion and initiation of health disparity programming. While we are extremely pleased that the Governor prioritizes these issues and recognizes their value, our optimism that these proposals will make it into law is guarded given the strong partisan divide that exists between the Governor and the Legislature. Remembering the Governor’s 2019-21 budget proposal, that proposal was completely rewritten by the Legislature and we fully expect this will happen again. Bottom line, the “working draft” of the budget will come from the Legislature, and not the Governor, and that will be our budget starting point. More to come.
Wisconsin Hospital Association: We continue to collaborate with WHA.
- WHA released its 2020 Community Benefits Report. In this report, Meriter contributed a success story related to COVID-19 Efforts focused on increased access to behavioral health services. Total behavioral health patient visits were increased from 1,492 in-person clinic visits (July-December 2019) to 1,713 in-person and virtual clinical visits (January-June 2020). The NewStart addiction clinic was also able to use both virtual and telephone visits to provide 1,363 patient visits.
- Support for the 340B Drug Pricing Program, a federal program, is another issue the WHA closely monitors as more than 70 Wisconsin hospital, including Meriter, participate in this program. Since last summer, some drug manufacturers have been denying 340B discounts for drugs dispensed at community pharmacies that contract with hospitals. We have been aligned with WHA efforts to contact both the Health and Human Services Department as well as Congressional members to cease this illegal activity.
For more information on State of Wisconsin advocacy, legislative, policy and regulatory issues of impact to UnityPoint Health, please contact Cathy Simmons, executive director of government & external affairs for UnityPoint Health