Each news article below shows only part of the news story. To view the full story, click on Read More below the story.
Sign-up for WiAHC’s Coffee Conversations with Legislators Program
Grassroots advocacy is the most powerful tool WiAHC has at its disposal to shape public policy and building relationships with lawmakers is the most important aspect of advocacy. In effort to capitalize on our greatest advocacy resource – our membership – WiAHC has unveiled our Coffee Conversations with Legislators advocacy program.
The initiative is designed to help connect members with their local legislators. Under the program, the WiAHC Government Affairs Team will set-up in-district meetings between WiAHC members and state lawmakers who represent them in the Legislature. These meetings, which can be located at your facility, or a local coffee shop provides a tremendous opportunity for WiAHC members to build or strengthen their relationships with local legislators and to educate them on home health care and on policy issues important to home health care professionals and their patients.
Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can make it difficult for some in-person meetings, but as cases decline and depending on your comfort level with meeting face-to-face, WiAHC would encourage you to participate in this critical grassroots advocacy program.
Please click here for more information on the program.
WiAHC is happy to remind members about and provide links to the latest articles and information from Home Health Care News and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice:
$1.5 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill Leaves Out Home Health Telehealth Reimbursement
Home Health Care News - By Joyce Famakinwa | March 10, 2022
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package on Wednesday. The legislation, among other things, extends the temporary virtual care flexibilities that were put in place during the public health emergency. Read more…
New Legislation Would Extend the Hospital at Home Program
National Association for Home Care and Hospice | March 22, 2022
The bipartisan Hospital Inpatient Services Modernization Act is new legislation introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives that would extend the acute care hospital at home waiver program. Initially introduced in November of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the program provides an alternative setting of care for certain conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, and COPD. Read more…
How the PE Nursing Home Crackdown Could Affect the Home Health Industry
Home Health Care News - By Patrick Filbin | March 13, 2022
Pushed by the White House, federal watchdogs have a new directive – cracking down on private equity in health care. While they’ll largely be targeting nursing homes and PE investment as part of a recently unveiled senior care initiative from the Biden administration, there will likely be ripple effects in the home-based care space. Read more…
NAHC Shares Tech Recommendations with Congress
National Association for Home Care and Hospice | March 21, 2022
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice and a coalition of long-term & post-acute care (LTPAC) and health information technology (HIT) groups have submitted comments to an important congressional task force exploring ways to accelerate innovation in the health care system. Read more…
Home Health Care News, which is part of the Aging Media Network, is a leading source for news and information covering the home health industry. National Association for Home Care and Hospice is the largest professional association representing the interests of chronically ill, disabled, and dying Americans of all ages and the caregivers who provide them with in-home health and hospice services.
Help WiAHC Develop a Legislative & Regulatory Agenda for 2023-24
The 2021-22 legislative session, which came to an end earlier this month, gave WiAHC plenty of opportunities to engage in the legislative process, build relationships with lawmakers, and ultimately pass legislation important to our members.
While the Legislature has adjourned for the year and lawmakers have returned to their districts to run for reelection, there is plenty of advocacy work to do behind the scenes. In fact, it is a perfect time for WiAHC to begin planning for the 2023-24 legislative session, which includes the development of a legislative agenda.
Crafting a legislative agenda serves two specific purposes:
1.) Inform WiAHC membership on the foremost state legislative and regulatory issues that impact home health care in Wisconsin and provide direction on which issues to actively advocate for before the legislature and executive branch.
2.) Provide state lawmakers, the governor’s office, and state agency officials with WiAHC’s position on key legislative and regulatory topics that will be relevant during the two-year session.
Identifying and prioritizing issues critical to home health care is the initial – and the most important – step in developing a legislative agenda. By deciding what the most important issues are before the start of 2023-24 legislative session, WiAHC can determine what resources will be necessary to meet the legislative and regulatory goals of our members.
To best determine WiAHC’s legislative and regulatory priorities, the WiAHC Government Affairs Team will be sending out a legislative priorities survey within the next month to give all our members an opportunity to provide their input on what issues are most important to them. The information gathered via the survey will be presented to the WiAHC Legislative Committee and Board and used to identify the association’s top priorities that will make-up association’s 2023-24 legislative agenda.
In addition to the member survey data, WiAHC leadership will consider the following criteria when finalizing legislative and regulatory priorities: 1.) The benefit to WiAHC members; 3.) The extent to which it improves home health care in Wisconsin; and 3.) The likelihood of legislative/regulatory success.
WiAHC values its members’ input and encourages everyone to participate in the legislative priorities survey when they receive it in their email inbox.
The WiAHC Legislative Bill Tracker lists and allows members to follow and learn more about the bills WiAHC lobbied on and monitored during the 2021-22 legislative session, which came to an end earlier this month. The Bill Tracker, which you can find below, includes the bill number, a brief description of the bill, its status, and WiAHC’s position on the proposal.
By Hoven Consulting – WiAHC’s lobbying firm
In late February and early March, the legislature passed several bills of interest to WiAHC as it looked to likely wrap up the 2021-2022 legislative session. The following is a list of these bills:
DHS Payment Increase Delays - Update
In February, WiAHC Board Chair Lisa Kirker sent a letter to State Medicaid Director Lisa Olson at the Department of Health Services (DHS) requesting a status update on the processing of two separate payment streams to home health care providers. One such payment stream was nearly an eight percent increase for select nursing care services in home health agencies, which was included in the 2021-2023 state budget. The other payment stream was an additional five percent Medicaid reimbursement rate for home and community-based services, which was funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). WiAHC has heard from members who have not yet received these increased payments.
DHS responded that they have run into delays in modifying their system to incorporate these increased payments. Once DHS completes those modifications, they will process the payments retroactive to January 1, 2022. The agency did not provide any details as to when these payments will likely be processed.
Recent Marquette University Poll
On March 2, Marquette Law School released a new poll that surveyed Wisconsin voters on their opinions of various national and statewide elected officials, as well as candidates for statewide office.
U.S. Senate Election
With respect to those voters who intend to vote in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s seat, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes was the leading candidate with 23 percent, and Alex Lasry followed with 13 percent. The other candidates only received support in the single digits, while 48 percent of Democratic primary voters have not decided whom they will support.
In this poll, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch led her primary rivals with 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters selecting her, eight percent selecting former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson and five percent selecting State Representative Tim Ramthun. However, 54 percent of these voters responded that they did not know whom they will support in the Republican primary.
At this time, Governor Tony Evers leads in popularity among elected statewide officials with 50 percent approving and 41 disapproving. President Biden has a 43 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. With respect to Wisconsin’s two U.S. Senators, Senator Tammy Baldwin has a 42 percent approval rating and a 36 percent disapproval rating, while Senator Ron Johnson has a 33 percent approval rating and a 45 percent disapproval rating.
State Supreme Court Ruling on Redistricting
At the beginning of each decade, each state redraws state legislative and congressional district lines based on data from the most recent federal census. After the Governor vetoed the legislature’s proposed legislative and congressional district maps last year, this dispute ended up in the courts. On March 3, 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided that Governor Evers’ updated state legislative and congressional maps will be used as they make fewer changes to district boundaries than the Legislature’s proposed maps.
On Monday, March 7, the Legislature appealed this ruling directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. And just this week, the nation’s highest court threw out the state legislative maps drawn Governor Evers and adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court said the state court’s approval of Evers’ maps was flawed, as it did not adequately consider whether certain newly crafted Assembly Districts in Milwaukee complied with the federal Voting Rights Act. The maps were sent back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for further consideration.
Politicians on the Move - Update
Help Advocate for Home Health Care: Sign-up for WiAHC’s Coffee Conversations with Legislators Program
Obviously, the surge in COVID-19 cases currently makes it difficult for some in-person meetings, but as cases subside and depending on your comfort level with meeting face-to-face, WiAHC would encourage you to participate in this critical grassroots advocacy program.
Wisconsin DHS Announces Rate Increase to Help Support Healthcare Workforce During COVID-19 Case Surge
Gov. Tony Evers and the Department of Health Services (DHS) earlier this month announced that Wisconsin has increased reimbursement rates by five percent for several types of home and community-based services (HCBS) provided to members of Wisconsin's Medicaid programs. The announcement from Gov. Evers and DHS today comes as the state continues to face healthcare workforce challenges in the midst of surging COVID-19 cases across Wisconsin. Last week, the Evers Administration announced the state has worked to recruit nearly 600 temporary staff to support the state's healthcare workforce.
HCBS providers serve Wisconsin's older adults, as well as adults and children with disabilities, enabling them to live independently in the community. The rates were increased by using funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The increases took effect as of Jan. 1, 2022, and will run through March 31, 2024.
“As our state continues to face some of the worst case increases we've seen during this pandemic, we're working to ensure our state's hospitals and long-term care facilities have the resources and support to retain and recruit workers and continue providing care to folks across our state,” said Gov. Evers. “The pandemic has put a significant strain on our healthcare workforce, and we're making critical investments so providers can better keep pace with rising costs and maintain access to care for Wisconsinites.”
“It is essential that we invest in our long-term care infrastructure so Wisconsinites who are elderly or who have a disability are able to access the services and support they need to live as independently as possible in their community,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “These rate increases are needed now more than ever as providers of care and services for our elders and adults and children living with disabilities are also being affected by the current surge in COVID-19 cases.”
Increasing Rates for Nursing Homes and Hospitals
Gov. Evers and DHS have increased rates and provided additional support to Wisconsin's nursing homes and hospitals, so they have the resources and support to continue providing high-quality care. Wisconsin hospitals and nursing homes provide care that is essential to the well-being of people across the state. COVID-19 has added more financial pressure due to supply and equipment costs, testing, and disruptions in admissions and discharges. Increasing funding for nursing homes and hospitals is a key part of supporting our most vulnerable residents.
Over the period from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023, Wisconsin will invest more than $500 million in payments and incentives to nursing homes, and more than $275 million in payments and incentives to hospitals. These payments are summarized below. They reflect increased reimbursement rates for nursing homes, increased payments made to hospitals that provide a higher amount of care to Medicaid members and people who are uninsured or underinsured, increased payments to rural hospitals, and additional funding provided to hospitals and nursing homes to offset the losses and expenditures providers have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rate increases for nursing homes were provided through the 2019-21 and 2021-23 biennial budgets. Payments to offset losses and expenditures experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic were provided through one-time federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act funding.
Increased payments for hospitals were provided through the 2019-21 and 2021-23 biennial budgets. Payments to offset losses and expenditures experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic were provided through one-time federal CARES Act funding.
Increasing Rates for HCBS
Wisconsin projects that the demand for long-term care services will rise faster than the workforce will grow in the coming years. According to the Governor's Taskforce on Caregiving, the state's population aged 65 and older is expected to grow by 72 percent between 2015 and 2040. The rate is six times higher than the overall Wisconsin population growth project of 12 percent for the same period.
HCBS are essential to meeting the daily needs of the members of Wisconsin's long-term care programs, allowing them to avoid unnecessary institutionalization. Examples of HCBS include care received at an assisted living facility, personal care, home health, residential substance use disorder treatment, respiratory care, and in-home nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. These services have been shown to be a cost-effective alternative to higher-cost institutional services, such as nursing home placements or hospital services. Higher rates help providers recruit staff and maintain the important system that delivers such critical care. The rate increase is part of DHS' broader plan to reinvest resources provided through ARPA into home and community-based services.
The ARPA rate increase for HCBS is being made in addition to the investments in support of the Medicaid HCBS workforce provided through the 2021-23 biennial budget. This included funding to increase the hourly rate for personal care services, increases for behavioral treatment services for individuals with autism and other disorders, increases for home health, therapeutic services, and Family Care providers, as well as funding increases for the direct care workforce funding program for Family Care. These investments will be significant to support individuals in their homes. As one example, when the workforce investments in the 2021-23 biennial budget are combined with this five percent rate increase, the hourly reimbursement rate for personal care services will be increased by 14 percent from $19.16 per hour and $21.84 per hour.
WiAHC Legislative Tracker
The 2021-22 WiAHC Legislative Bill Tracker lists and allows members to follow and learn more about the bills WiAHC is lobbying on and monitoring as they work through the legislative process. The Bill Tracker, which you can find below, includes the bill number, a brief description of the bill, its status, and WiAHC’s position on the proposal.
All Health Plans to Cover Cost of At-Home COVID-19 TestsOn January 13, Governor Evers and Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek announced that all health insurance plans will be required to cover the cost of at-home rapid, diagnostic COVID-19 tests, starting on January 15, 2022. This is required by the federal government. These tests may be free or reimbursable to patients, depending upon arrangements health plans and insurance companies make with retailers/pharmacies. Health plans and insurance companies will be required to cover up to eight such diagnostic tests per person, per month.
WiAHC Government Affairs Report | By Hoven Consulting – WiAHC’s Lobbying Firm
Assembly and Senate Committees Hold Hearing on Home Health Rules Update Bill
During the week of January 10, the Assembly Aging & Long-Term Care Committee and the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee held hearings on Assembly Bill 729 and Senate Bill 700, respectively. This legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield) and Sen. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) at the request of WiAHC, brings Wisconsin’s regulations in line with federal regulations by eliminating home health care professional advisory bodies but maintaining governing bodies. WiAHC state lobbyist Tim Hoven testified at both hearings on behalf of WiAHC and received a positive reception from members of both committees.
Current state administrative rules require each home health agency to establish a professional advisory body, which is required to review and submit recommendations to the governing body regarding various operational matters each year. However, in 2017, federal regulations eliminated professional advisory committees and instead created an ongoing quality assessment and performance improvement (QAPI) program.
A home health agency’s governing body is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the QAPI program is operated properly. An additional professional advisory body is no longer needed in state administrative rules now that the federal government has eliminated professional advisory committees and required home health agencies to implement QAPI programs, which prioritizes quality of care and patient safety. CLICK HERE to read the one-page issue summary that WiAHC provided to legislators.
Politicians on the Move
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