Wisconsin Budget Advances from Committee and Evers Signs Gender Neutral Language Executive Order
State Budget: Last week, the Joint Committee on Finance passed its version of the 2021-23 Wisconsin State Budget along party lines. We are nearing the finish line. The Wisconsin Hospital Association has been leading advocacy efforts, and while the full Legislature and Governor Tony Evers will still need to weigh in, the committee version contains many provisions favorable to Meriter.
- Disproportionate Share Hospital Program (DSH): This tops our list as a huge victory. The committee permanently reauthorized Medicaid DSH funding. This amounts to $40 million in state funding (over $104 million from all funding sources) in additional support achieved in the last state budget. Both Meriter and UW Health are positively impacted.
- Medicaid Reimbursement: The committee increased Medicaid reimbursement for many providers, including long-term care, personal care, home health, dentists, ambulance services, audiology services, autism services, child and adolescent day treatment services, emergency physicians, outpatient mental health and substance abuse services, opioid treatment providers, physical therapy, and speech-language pathologists.
- Post-Partum Coverage: The committee extended post-partum Medicaid coverage to 90 days (coverage is for 60 days under current law). While Meriter had urged the Legislature to extend this coverage to 1 year, any additional coverage is appreciated.
- Behavioral Health: The committee approved $10 million for the purpose of studying, proposing, and investing in regional crisis services and/or facilities for patients in need of involuntary mental health care.
- Rural Broadband Expansion: The committee approved $125 million for expanding broadband access, primarily in rural areas.
- Health Insurance Premium Stability/Affordability: The committee authorized additional $30 million in funding for the Wisconsin Health Care Stability Plan. When combined with federal matching dollars, this amount will help cover high-cost claims in the ACA’s marketplace.
As a reminder, there were also troublesome provisions within the initial draft for Meriter (including burdensome hospital balance billing and 340B drug pricing provisions) and the committee did remove those provisions. We will be monitoring the budget’s advancement and pushing for the advantageous provisions to remain within the final budget.
Executive Order (EO) #121: On June 1, Governor Evers signed a series of EOs related to LQBTQ issues. EO #121 directed Evers Administration cabinet agencies to use gender-neutral language whenever practicable in external documents, including but not limited to: using gender-neutral terms and pronouns, drafting to eliminate the need for pronouns, omitting superfluous gendered words, and making any reference to gendered family relations. As the largest birth center in the state, inaccurate labels on birth certificates have been a frustration for LGBTQ families and form revisions many times added legal expenses and additional paperwork to an otherwise joyous occasion. Starting on July 1, the new Birth Worksheet and Notice of Birth Registration forms issued by the State Vital Records Office within the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will use gender-neutral and allow parents the option of selecting their preferred reference – “mother-father” or “parent-parent”. As a result, the birth certificate when issued will be accurate and reflect their preference. Similarly, adoption paperwork will also use gender-neutral language forms so that resulting paperwork will likewise be accurate and reflect gender preferences.
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.