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$15 Million in Crisis Response Resources Approved to Support Healthcare Access in Western Wisconsin PDF Print E-mail
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Written by GOV Press Wisconsin   
Thursday, 29 February 2024 18:10

emtGov. Evers’ improvements to bill ensure flexibility for crisis response funding to be used for any hospital services, including urgent care, OB-GYN, and mental health services after recent hospital closure.


MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers approved Wednesday Senate Bill (SB) 1015, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 97, securing $15 million in crisis response resources to support healthcare access in Western Wisconsin in the wake of the recent announcement of HSHS and Prevea Health’s decision to close several locations. In addition to severely impacting healthcare access in the area, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the closures have been estimated to impact approximately 1,400 workers, among others, in the surrounding region.

Gov. Evers approved Act 97 with improvements through line-item vetoes that will provide additional flexibility for the $15 million crisis response investment, enabling the resources to be used to fund any hospital services meeting the area’s pressing healthcare needs, including urgent care services, OB-GYN services, inpatient psychiatry services, and mental health substance use services, among others. Without the governor’s vetoes, these services would not have been eligible under SB 1015. Gov. Evers first made the announcement today in Madison while speaking with community leaders from the Chippewa Valley region at the Chippewa Valley Rally, an annual event organized by the Chippewa Valley Chamber Alliance, which represents the Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and Eau Claire Chambers of Commerce.

tony-evers-2023-sos“Recent hospital closures in Western Wisconsin have disrupted Wisconsinites’ ability to access basic, everyday healthcare services and uprooted the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of folks and their families,” said Gov. Evers. “My administration and I are working to do everything we can to support those workers and their families, as well as folks across the area who need to be able to access basic and emergency healthcare services alike.

“I’m proud to be securing $15 million in crisis response funding while using my constitutional veto authority to make improvements to ensure more flexibility so these critical resources can be used for any hospital services to meet the healthcare access needs of the Chippewa Valley region, no matter what they may be,” Gov. Evers continued. “It’s been clear in my visits to the Chippewa Valley region and my conversations with community leaders that the impacts of these recent closures do not end at hospital emergency doors—these closures are affecting access to critical healthcare services across the board, and we have to be responsive to these challenges to meet Wisconsinites’ and communities’ needs.”

ems-vehiclesSB 1015, as passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature, included unnecessary restrictions on the $15 million crisis response funding, limiting the funds to be used only for hospital emergency department services exclusively. The governor’s partial vetoes improve the bill significantly, broadening the scope of the grants that will be available under the bill and allowing the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to make the crisis response funds available for any hospital services that meet the needs of the region.

Concurrent with the governor’s announcement today, Gov. Evers also directed DHS to submit an official request to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance to immediately release the $15 million provided for under Act 97. A copy of the request submitted by DHS to the Joint Committee on Finance today is available here. The plan request submitted by DHS reflects the governor’s improvements made to the bill today.

“I’m urging Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance to approve the department’s request quickly to ensure these resources are immediately available to help stabilize and support healthcare access across the Chippewa Valley region, and to do so without delay,” concluded Gov. Evers. “This investment will go a long way in helping address the very real and pressing healthcare access concerns facing Western Wisconsin, and it is critically important that we get this funding out the door to folks who need it.”

Upon Joint Committee on Finance approval of the DHS’ request, the department will conduct a competitive grant application process for the $15 million in funding for eligible hospitals and hospital services meeting the following criteria:

  1. Eligible hospital services are those provided in the Western Region, with priority for hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties.
  2. Grantees must agree to expand capacity (capital and operational) at hospitals (defined as entities with DHS 124 license) that accept all payor types (commercial (consistent with existing networks), Medicaid, Medicare, self-pay, and uninsured) including any of the following services:
    • Increase Emergency Department capacity/service, including accepting patients in crisis in need of potential evaluation under Chapter 51.
    • Expand Urgent Care Services.
    • Expand Inpatient Psychiatric Unit accepting adults and/or adolescents. The unit must accept emergency detentions under s. 51.15 and voluntary admissions.
    • Expand Inpatient OB/GYN services.
    • Expand mental health and/or substance use services.
    • Expand or establish hospital-owned and operated ambulance service to transfer patients to an appropriate patient care setting.
  3. Any expansion of services begun on or after January 22, 2024, is eligible for the grant funds.

The governor’s veto message detailing his partial vetoes of SB 1015, now Wisconsin Act 97, is available here.

EVERS ADMINISTRATION'S RAPID RESPONSE TO HEALTHCARE CLOSURES IN WESTERN WISCONSIN

While not exhaustive, details regarding the Evers Administration’s ongoing rapid response efforts to the HSHS and Prevea health systems closures are available here and detailed below.

DWD Rapid Response Efforts

  • DWD is coordinating rapid response with the local workforce development board. The rapid response support includes assistance with job search and placement, unemployment insurance application assistance, interview preparation, career counseling, and navigation of childcare and health insurance information, among other resources.
  • DWD’s rapid response teams are continuing to gather critical information, meet with the affected employees and employers, and identify opportunities to connect affected employees with new opportunities that provide family-supporting wages.
  • DWD and the local workforce development board hosted community job fairs to assist affected workers and the general public on February 7 and February 20.
  • DWD worked with the local rapid response team to offer 11 information sessions in affected communities.
  • DWD continues to coordinate with DHS and other state agencies to support continuity of healthcare services in the region.
  • Additional services will be made available via DWD’s mobile career labs and job centers for affected employees.


DHS Rapid Response Efforts

  • DHS has met with both the local leadership and the systemwide leadership of HSHS and Prevea Health, and the department will continue to have regular meetings with these leaders moving forward.
  • DHS is facilitating conversations between the leadership of HSHS and Prevea Health and the leadership of other regional healthcare systems, including Marshfield Clinic Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System, and is continuing to urge the three systems to increase transparency in their planning and decision-making.
  • DHS will continue to monitor EMS, trauma, and crisis response going forward, in addition to ongoing transition and continuity of care planning, including:
  • Coordination of an agreement to transfer certain patients from HSHS to Mayo Clinic; and
  • Necessary steps to ensure all local OB/GYNs have privileges at all local hospitals so they can continue to provide care locally regardless of the facility at which they are working. This is particularly important given the pre-existing shortages with regard to OB/GYN care in the region.
  • DHS’s Bureau of Human Resources has notified employees of the department’s Northern Wisconsin Center, who mostly use Prevea Health and HSHS, and the bureau is working with them to help them find care.
  • DHS is conducting outreach to facilities and organizations to encourage them to have a presence at upcoming job fairs in the region, including long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, DHS-administered facilities, etc.


Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) Rapid Response Efforts

  • OCI is in communication with Western Wisconsin insurers about their efforts to maintain access and provide timely information for their policyholders.
  • OCI continues to be in contact with health insurance enrollment assisters in the region to answer questions and support their efforts to provide clarity for insureds impacted by the closures.
  • OCI has been in contact with the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) on State Employee Health Plan issues to monitor the situation.
  • OCI has been in contact with the Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration to ensure they are aware of the situation and prepared to support people with employer-based coverage impacted in the area.


ABOUT THE DISLOCATED WORKER PROGRAM

The Dislocated Worker Program provides transition assistance to workers and companies affected by permanent worker layoffs. The rapid response teams help companies and worker representatives develop and implement a practical transition plan based on the size of the layoff event. Types of services include:

  • Pre-layoff workshops on a variety of topics, such as resume writing and interviewing, job search strategies, and budgeting;
  • Provision of information about programs and resources through written materials and information sessions; and
  • Career and resource fairs.

Workers affected by a permanent layoff may also access basic re-employment services at no charge through the state’s Job Centers. Certain services, including training assistance, may be an option for some workers after enrolling in one or more of DWD’s workforce development programs. Additional information on the Rapid Response Team process is available here.  

Gov. Evers today also vetoed SB 1014. The governor’s veto message for SB 1014 is available here.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 February 2024 18:23
 
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