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News & Press: Legislative Updates

WPA Legislative Update, January 2018

Friday, January 5, 2018  
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Eric Jensen, WPA Lobbyist

Doctor Day 2018

Doctor Day 2018 is almost here! On Tuesday, January 30th hundreds of physicians and medical students will join together in Madison to advocate for one another and for their patients.  Each Doctor Day has been larger than the last, and now in just its 5th year our goal is to reach 500 attendees and we are well on our way to that number.  But we’re not there yet, and it is not too late for you to join your colleagues in Madison. Go to WIDoctorDay.org to sign up now!

WPA in the Capitol – Support for AB 556

Representative Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc), chair of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health recently introduced AB 556, which would provide a state income tax deduction on up to $200,000 annually earnings derived from the practice of psychiatry.  To be eligible, the deduction must be claimed within the first two years a psychiatrist begins practice in Wisconsin or returns to practice in Wisconsin after practicing in another state.  The simple goal of AB 556 is to add a tool to help attract resident-psychiatrists to stay and practice in Wisconsin, and attract psychiatrists to come to Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, December 13, John Schneider, MD, WPA President-Elect, testified on behalf of WPA before the Assembly Health Committee in support of AB 556 and submitted written testimony from WPA President, Justin Schoen, MD.  In addition, WPA Executive Councilor member, Barbara Hale-Richlen, MD added her voice in support after providing very detailed and well received testimony on AB 638 (see related article).

WPA Concerns about ForwardHealth Reimbursement Changes

WPA received word in December of an impending change from DHS/ForwardHealth scheduled to go live as of January 1st.  In short, the multi-tiered reimbursement system will be reduced to just two tiers of reimbursement for mental and behavioral healthcare services, with psychologists and psychiatric nurses joining psychiatrists in the top reimbursement tier. 

This change came as part of Governor Walker’s announced increase in funding to improve access to care for mental health and substance use disorders.  However, WPA, WMS, WHA and other health organizations were not contacted nor consulted as DHS worked internally to execute the Governor’s directive.

On December 20th, WPA President, Justin Schoen, MD wrote to DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer to express WPA’s concerns about the announced changes, the potential unintended consequences and to request that the proposal be amended.  Doctor Schoen also expressed WPA’s concern about the lack of contact and consultation with health providers prior to making the decision.  A copy of the letter was simultaneously delivered to Governor Walker’s office.

Worker’s Compensation – Fee Schedule Proposal Returns – SB 665

As noted in the last newsletter, the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council’s (WCAC) legislative proposal for 2017-18 once again includes a “provider fee schedule” for all Worker’s Compensation related healthcare services.  Four years ago, the WCAC also proposed the creation of a “provider fee schedule,” but the proposal was stopped when the health provider community (hospitals, physicians, nurses, chiropractors, physical therapists and others) rallied together in strong opposition – the effort buoyed by physicians lobbying together at Doctor Day 2014.  We will need a similar effort this year to succeed in stopping the proposal again. 

WCAC proposals are normally introduced as legislation by individual legislators who are joined by dozens of colleagues as co-sponsors.  Yet as of the last days of 2017, the latest WCAC proposal has yet to be introduced in the Assembly, and in an unusual move, Senate Bill 665 has been introduced by the entirety of the Senate Labor committee rather than by individual senators and representatives.

Do not hesitate to contact your lawmakers today to voice your opposition to SB 655 and state government setting fees for healthcare provided to injured workers in Wisconsin.  You can find your legislators’ contact information by typing your home address into the “Find Your Legislators” box at http://legis.wisconsin.gov.