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DHS requests Medicaid rate increase for psychiatrists

Wednesday, December 4, 2019  
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December 4, Wisconsin Health News

The Department of Health Services submitted a plan to lawmakers Tuesday that would increase Medicaid rates for doctors and psychiatrists starting next year.

DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm submitted the proposal to the Joint Finance Committee for review as required by a state law enacted by Republicans last year.

Under the department's plan, the combined cost of the physician and psychiatrist rate increases would be $18.5 million all funds, including $7.5 million in state money.

DHS wants to increase reimbursement for codes primarily used by physicians by around $13.4 million over the biennium, with around $5.4 million of that being state money. That would be the first across the board increase to physicians since 2008 when rates went up by 1 percent, the request noted.

The proposal also increases reimbursement for codes used by psychiatrists by 33 percent, a $5.1 million increase over the rest of the biennium in all funds, with $2.1 million coming from state money.

The Wisconsin Medical Society praised the plan.

“The Wisconsin Medical Society supports this rate increase,” the society said in a statement. “We appreciate DHS’s continued commitment to ensure patient access to care for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations and to enable physicians and psychiatrists to continue providing high-quality patient care.”

Altogether, the plan would provide the same level of funding appropriated by the Legislature during budget deliberations when adjusting for a Jan. 1, 2020 implementation date, rather than July 1, 2019, according to the letter.

The Legislature passed a budget that had a $24.7 million increase under the July 1 start date. But Gov. Tony Evers vetoed that because he objected to a requirement that the money head to a JFC appropriation, which meant the department would have to submit a request to the committee to get the funding.

Evers said in his veto message that the Legislature could have retained the funding "to potentially use for other purposes." He instead directed the agency to use base funding for the increase. 

Republicans added their plan to the budget after scrapping Evers’ proposal for larger increases funded by accepting federal money to expand Medicaid. The Assembly attempted to override the veto last month, but GOP lawmakers didn't get Democratic support it needed to succeed.