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  • October 26, 2023 3:51 PM | Anonymous

    Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Bill Passes Senate; Awaiting Further Consideration in the Assembly

    After a long summer of inactivity on the Advanced Practice Register Nurse (APRN) bill, earlier this month – and somewhat out-of-the-blue – the Senate Health Committee voted to approve the legislation (SB 145). On Oct. 17, the full Senate passed the bill on a 23-9 vote.

    The proposal would create a new pathway to allow registered nurses to be licensed as an APRN and provide them with broad nursing powers, including the ability practice independently without physician collaboration. Unfortunately, the bill as passed by the Senate lacks the common-sense changes the WAO and Wisconsin’s “House of Medicine” deem essential to preserve patient safety and protect the delivery of high-quality care across the state. These include adequate requirements for clinical experience before an APRN can practice independently and physician “Truth-in-Advertising” language to help ensure patients know when they are receiving care from a physician or non-physician provider.

    The bill is now awaiting further consideration in the Assembly. It is expected that it will receive a public hearing by the Assembly Health Committee before the end of the year. The WAO will continue to work with other physician groups to find a reasonable compromise with lawmakers and nursing stakeholders that include the following provisions:

    • Four years of real-world experience working in a physician-led, team-based care environment before an APRN can practice independently.
    • Truth-in-Advertising title protections to help health care consumers better understand when they are receiving care from a physician or a non- physician provider.
    • Language to ensure that a physician specializing in pain medicine collaborates with independent APRN clinics that provide complex pain management patient care.

    If a compromise cannot be reached, the WAO and the greater physician community will urge Gov. Tony Evers to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. Evers vetoed similar legislation last session.

    Senate Rejects Reappointment of Dr. Sheldon Wasserman to Medical Examining Board

    Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, rejected several of Gov. Tony Evers’ appointments to a handful of state commissions and boards. Among the appointments voted down by the Senate included Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, who Evers reappointed to the Medical Examining Board (MEB). Wasserman, who chaired the MEB and had served on the Board since 2019, was rejected by the Senate on a partisan 22-10 vote. Evers quickly replaced Wasserman on the MEB with Dr. Steven Leuthner, a neonatal pediatrician who teaches at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

    Legislative Committee Rejects Request for More DSPS Occupational Credential Staff

    On September 26, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee rejected a request from the WI Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) for additional funding for new staff members to assist in processing occupational credential applications. The 10-4 vote to reject the funding fell along party lines.  In its request, DSPS noted they needed additional staff members to maintain or reduce processing time for occupational credentials.  As part of the 2023-2025 budget bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, lawmakers approved 17 new positions at DSPS, as well as $3.5 million for software upgrades, to improve the credentialing process.

    Senate Health Committee Recommends Approval of DHS Secretary Nominee

    Earlier this month, the Senate Health Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, voted 5-1 to recommend to the full Senate the confirmation of Kirsten Johnson as Secretary of the WI Department of Health Services (DHS). Johnson has been serving as interim secretary since her appointment by Gov. Tony Evers in Feb. 2023. Prior to her appointment, Johnson served as the head of the City of Milwaukee Health Department, as well as the Washington-Ozaukee Health Department. Senator Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) was the lone senator on the committee to oppose Johnson’s confirmation, which still needs approval by the full Senate. 

    Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to State’s Legislative Districts

    Earlier this month, on Oct. 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision – split down ideological lines – agreeing to hear a legal challenge to the state’s current legislative maps, which were drawn following the 2020 U.S. Census and after a series of rulings by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Wisconsin voters, claims Wisconsin Assembly and Senate legislative districts were gerrymandered in violation of the state constitution.

    Depending on a final ruling by the liberal-leaning court, new legislative maps could be in place by next year and could shift the balance of power in the Legislature. Republicans have held large majorities in both houses since 2011. The state’s high court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 21, but has not provided a timeline for when it will issue a decision.

    State of Wisconsin ends fiscal year with $7 billion surplus

    Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) announced the state closed the 2023 fiscal year, which ended June 30, with a surplus of slightly more than $7 billion. That is roughly 65% more than last year’s $4.3 billion balance. In addition, the state Budget Stabilization Fund, or “rainy day” fund continues to have a balance of $1.8 billion. CLICK HERE to review the full DOA Annual Fiscal Report.

  • September 26, 2023 8:45 AM | Anonymous

    As was reported in last month’s edition of this publication, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule in July. Under the proposed rule, clinicians would see a 3.36% decrease to the physician conversion factor. The proposed conversion factor for 2024 is $32.75, which is a reduction compared to the 2023 conversion factor of $33.89.

    Prior to the Sept. 11 public comment period deadline, the WAO submitted comments to CMS on the rule, outlining the Academy’s concerns and other thoughts on the proposal. Please CLICK HERE to read the WAO’s comments to CMS on the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule.

    CMS has said it will issue the final rule in November.

  • September 26, 2023 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    Legislation (AB 408 / SB 398) was recently introduced in the state Legislature to create a Wisconsin income tax credit to help offset the costs of employment-related transportation services incurred by a person considered blind under federal tax guidelines.

    The proposed non-refundable tax credit would be equal to 50 percent of the cost of covered transportation services and would be limited to $1,500 per taxable year. Under the bill, eligible transportation services must be provided by mass transit, paratransit, taxicab, or a transportation network company.

    The proposed legislation was introduced earlier this month and is awaiting further consideration by state lawmakers.

  • September 26, 2023 8:43 AM | Anonymous

    On August 8, Governor Tony Evers called a special session of the Legislature, urging lawmakers to consider a $1 billion workforce development package the Governor said was needed to address the state’s workforce shortage crisis.

    Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, convened the session as required by law, but quickly adjourned without acting. They called the special session a “political stunt” that was fiscally irresponsible and did not provide real solutions to Wisconsin’s workforce challenges.

    The Governor’s proposed legislative package included $365 million to support childcare programs; the creation of a paid family and medical leave program that would cost $243 million; $66 million for the UW; $40 million for the state’s technical colleges; and nearly $60 million to help address the shortage of healthcare workers across the state. The funding to address the healthcare worker shortage included:

    ·   $10 million for the state’s nurse educators program, which incentivizes nursing professors to remain in Wisconsin.

    ·   $6 million for the WisCaregiver Careers program, which is intended to increase the number of certified nursing assistants employed at nursing homes.

    ·   $17 million for healthcare opportunity grants, which will go to local workforce development boards to help individuals obtain employment in the healthcare field.

    ·   $936,600 for the state Department of Workforce Development to work on healthcare apprenticeships.

    ·   $22.5 million for healthcare innovation grants, which will help the healthcare industry recruit and retain employees.

    ·   Over $1.2 million for graduate medical training support grants.

  • September 26, 2023 8:43 AM | Anonymous

    On August 31, Governor Tony Evers and the state Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) unveiled a new online dashboard that provides high-level data on occupational license processing.  In addition to showing the average number of days to process all new applications, all health applications, and all business applications, users may also look up application review times by profession. 

  • September 26, 2023 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    The Republican-controlled state Assembly recently passed a redistricting reform plan to completely overhaul how legislative district maps are drawn in Wisconsin. Under the proposal, which is based on the model used in Iowa, a nonpartisan committee would draw the legislative maps. The maps drawn by committee would be subject to approval by the state Legislature. 

    Gov. Tony Evers roundly criticized the proposal, saying it was essentially election interference by the GOP and strongly inferred he would veto the measure if it made it to his desk. Assembly Republicans praised the legislation as not only the fairest approach to redistricting for citizens, but also a plan that would avoid costly political and legal battles.

    Recent polling has shown that a large majority of Wisconsin residents would prefer legislative district maps be drawn by a nonpartisan commission rather than elected officials.

    The proposal, which passed the Assembly on a largely partisan vote with one Democrat voting for the measure, is awaiting further action in the Senate.

  • September 26, 2023 8:40 AM | Anonymous

    Earlier this month, the GOP-controlled state Assembly passed a nearly $3 billion state income tax cut proposal that would drop income tax rates from 5.3% to 4.4% for individual filers with incomes between $27,630 and $304,170 and deliver the same tax relief for married couples with incomes between $18,420 and $405,550. The legislation would also exclude the first $150,000 of a couple’s retirement income from state income taxes. The provision would apply to residents over the age of 67.

    Gov. Tony Evers has promised to veto the legislation, saying it would jeopardize priorities such as public schools, child care, and public safety. On the flip side of the debate, Assembly Republicans said the measure, which passed on a partisan vote, will help fight inflation, encourage retires to stay in Wisconsin, and give a large portion of the state’s $4 billion surplus back to taxpayers.

    The bill is currently under further consideration in the Senate.

  • August 29, 2023 4:03 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier this month, Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) appointed Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) to serve on the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee – the Joint Finance Committee – for the remainder of the 2023-2024 legislative session.  Andraca replaces Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) on the committee. Goyke stepped down from the post to focus on his campaign for the position of Milwaukee City Attorney.  The 16-members Joint Finance Committee is comprised of lawmakers from both the Assembly and Senate, with 12 Republicans and four Democrats.

  • August 29, 2023 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers called the legislature into special session for Wednesday, Sept.20, 2023, to consider a number of workforce-related initiatives originally included in his state budget bill but rejected by the legislature. Among the proposals Evers is asking lawmakers to act on include the creation of a paid family and medical leave program, financial support (over $300 million) for the state’s childcare industry, and funding ($60 million) to help address Wisconsin’s shortage of health care workers. The $60 million for health care workforce development would fund the following programs under Evers’ plan:

    • $22.5 million for healthcare innovation grants, which will help the healthcare industry recruit and retain employees.
    • $17 million for healthcare opportunity grants, which will go to local workforce development boards to assist individuals obtain employment in the healthcare field.
    • $10 million to increase the number of nurse educators program in Wisconsin.
    • $6 million for the WisCaregiver Careers program, which aims to increase the number of certified nursing assistants employed at nursing homes.
    • $1.2 million for graduate medical training support grants.
    • $936,600 for the state Department of Workforce Development to advance healthcare apprenticeships opportunities.

    Despite the governor’s call for a special session, the Republican-controlled legislature is opposed to the Evers initiatives, and they are expected to quickly adjourn the Sept. 20 special session without acting on any of the proposals.  

  • August 29, 2023 3:03 PM | Anonymous

    Earlier this month, Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in as a new justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Protasiewicz, who has positioned herself as a judicial liberal, defeated former Justice Dan Kelly in the April 4 spring general election, replacing two-term Justice Patience Roggensack, who did not seek reelection.

    More notably, Protasiewicz’s addition to the state’s high court shifted it from a majority conservative court to a majority liberal one. With the ideological swing to a 4-3 advantage in favor of liberals for at least the next two years, the court is expected to issue several high-profile judicial decisions that could impact the political landscape in Wisconsin.

    Among the hot-button  issues that may be determined by the court include voting and election rules, redrawing legislative district maps, the future of abortion and reproductive rights in Wisconsin, and overturning the law that eliminated bargaining rights for most state and local government employees.

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