News

  • 04/03/2020 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    April 3, 2020

    The Department of Health Services announced the creation of the Resilient Wisconsin Initiative (website) on Friday, which provides Wisconsinites with resources to cope with stress and mental health challenges from COVID-19.

    DHS recommends that Wisconsinites do the following:

    • Get the three goods. That’s good-for-you foods, a good night’s sleep, and a good amount of exercise every day.
    • Stay connected to your support system. Reach out to family and friends, colleagues, and community groups in whatever way you can—calls, texts, video chats, and more.
    • Spend time away from focusing on COVID-19. Don’t let the pandemic take over what you read, watch, or talk about. And don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to talk about something else.
    • Reduce anxiety by reducing your risk. Stay safer at home. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Stay at least 6 feet apart while running essential errands at the store, pharmacy, or gas station. Knowing you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy can help you worry less.
    • Check in with yourself. Everyone’s reaction to stress is different. Difficulty concentrating or sleeping, irritability, fatigue, and even stomachaches can be normal. But if you find you are overwhelmed or having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, reach out for help right away. Text HOPELINE to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • 04/02/2020 2:16 PM | Anonymous

    April 2, 2020

    A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters finds strong support for government actions to control the coronavirus pandemic, even as the poll also shows these actions to be having a substantial financial impact on voters.

    The survey found:

    • Eighty-six percent say that it was appropriate to close schools and businesses, and restrict public gatherings, while 10 percent say that this was an overreaction to the pandemic;
    • A large majority of voters approve of Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of the coronavirus issue, with 76 percent saying they approve and 17 percent saying they disapprove;
    • A majority, 51 percent, approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic, while 46 percent disapprove;
    • Opinion is divided on holding the April 7 spring election as scheduled, with 51 percent saying the date should be moved and 44 percent saying it should be held as scheduled.

    A full copy of the survey is available online (link).

  • 04/02/2020 1:17 PM | Anonymous

    April 2, 2020

    COVID-19 Crisis Prompts OCI Guidance to Insurers
    WMS Medigram

    Insurers are being asked to allow small employers of physicians and other health care workers (2 - 49 employees) to extend health care coverage to employees who work less than 30 hours per week or are furloughed due to COVID-19.

    The Commissioner, Mark Afable, issued a bulletin on March 26 that “encourages insurers to make available the option of maintaining coverage under the group insurance plan for employees working fewer than 30 hours per week.”

    The bulletin also “encourages insurers to work with employers to provide the option of continuing dental, vision and prescription drug benefits when offered as separate policies.”

    With a stay at home order in place until at least April 24, this is an important development for small groups. And, if insurers follow these recommendations, it will eliminate the need to change providers or incur new deductibles and cost-sharing requirements once the crisis has passed and employees return to full-time work.

    Telemedicine and temporary provider professional liability coverage

    In a separate bulletin issued on March 31, OCI made it clear that insurers should do everything they can to help.

    “At the direction of Governor Tony Evers, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable issued a request to medical malpractice insurers today aimed at expanding access to telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and at ensuring retired and out-of-state health care workers can get the medical malpractice coverage in order to support the state's response to COVID-19.”

    Bud Chumbley, MD, MBA, and CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society said, “It is extremely important for insurers to act now as all of Wisconsin steps up to the plate to minimize the severity of this crisis.”

    What next?

    Both of these bulletins were prompted by inquiries made to the OCI from members of the medical community as well as a significant amount of advocacy by the Society and its insurance agency WisMed Assure.

    This is a fluid situation as insurers react to these recommendations. To get the most up-to-date information about your insurance coverage, please contact us at insurance@wismedassure.org or 608.442.3810.

    Christopher A. Noffke, GBDS
    Director of Group Benefits
    WisMed Assure

  • 04/02/2020 1:15 PM | Anonymous

    April 2, 2020

    Society CEO Participates on WMC Panel
    WMS Medigram

    On Wednesday, Society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, was a panelist for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) weekly webinar addressing COVID-19 concerns. Dr. Chumbley conveyed to all those present the need for quicker testing of COVID-19 and the importance of collaboration between providers and systems during this crisis.

    Dr. Chumbley also informed everyone of the Society’s efforts to reach out to over 1,800 retired physicians to help alleviate workforce and access concerns as well as the Society’s additional efforts to supply clinicians with the resources they need to deal with COVID-19.

    During the call Dr. Chumbley was asked if the Governor’s “safer at home” order would be extended, and he stated that it would while emphasizing the need to take social distancing requirements seriously.

    Please contact HJ Waukau with additional questions.

  • 04/02/2020 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    April 2, 2020

    Discounted Telehealth for Clinics – Society Partners with Valet Health
    WMS Medigram

    The Wisconsin Medical Society has partnered with Valet Health, an innovative health care digital marketing company, to offer a streamlined – and HIPAA compliant – telehealth start-up service during the coronavirus pandemic.

    • As a part of this partnership, the following fully managed services are being made available:
    • Startup fee is waived ($350 value)
    • Room set-up (create a virtual waiting room, the dedicated space for where clinicians will see patients during a telehealth visit)
    • How-to documentation
    • An email communications template to educate patients about the availability of telehealth visits
    • A website banner notification for telehealth appointments for WordPress websites
    • Telehealth template page for patient education
    • $75 per month per clinician charge for continuation of service, if desired

    It is imperative at this time to be inclusive in our efforts to overcome this virus; therefore, the Society is offering this service to members and nonmembers.

    Please click here to learn more or contact Jim Lorence with questions.

  • 04/02/2020 1:05 PM | Anonymous

    April 2, 2020

    Society COVID-19 Action Update
    WMS Medigram

    The Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) continues to advocate for physician and patient needs during this pandemic as Wisconsin’s physicians continue to provide high-quality care while putting themselves at risk. The Society’s efforts over the last week have produced tangible results in the fight against COVID-19.

    Creation of temporary licenses

    Governor Evers issued an order on March 27 easing regulations for retired physicians to return to the workforce and allowing physicians to work across state lines on a temporary basis. The Society worked with the Evers Administration to create these temporary licenses which are tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration.

    The Society reached out to retired physicians to identify who would be interested in helping during this crisis. We appreciate all the responses and interest we have received already from retired physicians. If you are a retired physician who is interested in helping during the crisis, please complete this short form.   

    Medical Malpractice guidance

    In conjunction with Governor Evers’s order, the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) issued guidance directing medical malpractice insurers to treat telehealth services the same is if those services were provided in person. In addition, OCI is directing malpractice insurers to work with providers with temporary licenses created under the Governor’s order to obtain coverage. This guidance was directly influenced by the Society’s actions and engagement.

    Telehealth Expansion

    In that same order Governor Evers temporarily eased telemedicine guidelines in general and allowed physicians to work across state lines with a temporary license. The order also directed OCI to facilitate coverage outside of traditional settings and to work with insurers on ways to minimize barriers to telehealth. This order was created with Society collaboration.

    Both the Department of Health Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have announced new guidelines for telehealth. This includes coverage and reimbursement parity, establishing new patient relationships, in-home consultations and telephone-only services among many other policy expansions.

    State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC)

    Society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, has been in contact with the SEOC on a number of issues and will be joining its Sector Support Task Force. This will provide the Society and the state’s physicians with an active voice in how the emergency actions of the state are handled.

    Safe Harbor for COVID-19

    The Society will be working with all relevant stakeholders to create a liability safe harbor for physicians providing care during the COVID-19 crisis. Discussions are ongoing and details will follow.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    The Governor announced Tuesday that Wisconsin will be receiving its second shipment of PPE from the national stockpile. The Society has been working with the Evers Administration to stress the continued need for PPE and supports all efforts to increase both access and supply.

    If you have questions about how to access the stockpile, please contact your local county emergency management coordinator. Additional information can be found here.

    Please contact HJ Waukau with additional questions.

  • 04/01/2020 2:13 PM | Anonymous

    April 1, 2020

    Governor Evers today announced a second package of comprehensive legislative proposals that would provide critical investments in health services, support for essential workers, and assistance for Wisconsin families and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s announcement today comes just days after Gov. Evers announced a first piece of legislation, which included additional funding and flexibility for public health professionals and healthcare professionals, a repeal of the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance, expanding and improving access to telehealth services, among many other proposals.  

    As additional needs and issues arise from agencies and stakeholders, the governor is committed to working with legislators to find bipartisan solutions. The governor’s office welcomes the opportunity to hear and consider any proposals that legislators have to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents, businesses and communities. 

    This package, among many other proposals, includes:  

    • Increasing funding for Medicaid providers via supplemental payments and rate increases to support the healthcare system’s response to the public health emergency;  
    • Establishing a fund to reduce providers’ uncompensated care costs targeting reimbursement for treatment-related costs for uninsured individuals;
    • Establishing a COVID-19 reinsurance program to reduce health insurance premiums; 
    • Providing grant funding to provide food assistance and meal delivery;  
    • Prohibiting utility cooperatives from disconnecting customers and prohibiting land-lord directed disconnections from rental units during a public health emergency; 
    • Ensuring workers receive back payment for any lost unemployment insurance benefits as a result of the delay in suspending the one-week waiting period; 
    • Providing supplemental payments to child care providers, if that provider needed to shut down during the public health emergency;  
    • Allowing households to apply for heating assistance under the low-income energy assistance program anytime during the 2020 calendar year; 
    • Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families;  
    • Providing municipalities the flexibility to implement multiple installments of three or more payments for 2020 property taxes;  
    • Waiving interest and penalties on delinquent property taxes included in the 2019 payable 2020 tax roll, on and after April 1, 2020;  
    • Creating a fund through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Association to provide 6 months of support for prevention of single-family foreclosures and providing refinancing opportunities to current borrowers; and  
    • Providing grant funding for small businesses and workers through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. 

    The Governor’s first COVID-19-related legislation was introduced last week as LRB-5920 and is available here for review. A brief explanation of LRB-5920 is available here. A brief explanation of the governor’s second round of proposed legislation announced today is available online (link).

  • 04/01/2020 2:11 PM | Anonymous

    April 1, 2020

    Effective for dates of service on and after April 1, 2020, ForwardHealth, which has an expedited emergency supply policy dispensing option available for certain drugs, has expanded the list of drugs available through expedited emergency supply and will allow most drugs to be dispensed in up to a 100-day expedited emergency supply.

    A table with the expanded list of drugs available by expedited supply is included below and is also available on the Pharmacy Resources page of the ForwardHealth Portal. Pharmacy providers should continue to follow the current processes for requesting an expedited emergency supply of drugs detailed in the Emergency Medication Dispensing topic (#1399) of the ForwardHealth Online Handbook.

    This Action Alert 10 and others are available on the ForwardHealth website (link).

  • 04/01/2020 2:06 PM | Anonymous

    April 1, 2020

    Governor Evers issued the following statement regarding the upcoming April 7 election:

    “We have three branches of government to ensure a system of checks and balances, and questions about our elections typically rely on all three playing a role. If I could have changed the election on my own I would have but I can’t without violating state law. I’ve asked the legislature to do its part to ensure a fair and safe election and I hope we can get some clarity as soon as possible. The bottom line is that we have to keep folks safe and we have to make sure everyone who wants to vote has the opportunity to make their voice heard.”

    Previously, the governor proposed legislation that had several provisions aimed at making voting easier and more accessible during the public health emergency. A brief summary of that legislation is available here for review. Additionally, he called for the Legislature to act on this issue in a video, available here

    The amicus brief submitted on behalf of the governor is available here

  • 04/01/2020 2:03 PM | Anonymous

    April 1, 2020

    Wisconsin nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) published an analysis of the approximately $2.2 billion Wisconsin is expected to receive from the from the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. About $1.8 billion would go to the state government while the remaining funds would go to the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and Dane County. The LFB has also provided Wisconsin-specific estimates for some of the programmatic increases provided by the stimulus package.  That report is available online (link).

    The report includes a summary on all programs funded in the Act, including:

    • Public Health Emergency Preparedness funding from CDC;
    • Administration for Community Living
    • Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund
    • Direct Payments to State and Local Governments
    • Transportation, Housing and Unemployment Programs

    Details on the full $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package are also available in the full bill available online (link).  The following is a summary of some of the healthcare related provisions in the bill.

    Health and Long-term Care

    Grants to Hospitals and Health Care Providers: Provides $100 billion to reimburse, through grants or other mechanisms, eligible health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus. Medicaid and Medicare providers are included in the definition of health care provider. To apply, providers must submit an application to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that includes a statement justifying their need.

    Delay of Disproportionate Share Hospital Reductions. Delays scheduled reductions in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments through November 30, 2020.

    Increasing Provider Funding through Immediate Medicare Sequester Relief. Temporarily lifts the Medicare sequester from May 1 through December 31, 2020, boosting payments for hospital, physician, nursing home, home health, and other care by 2%. The Medicare sequester would be extended by one-year beyond current law to provide immediate relief without worsening Medicare’s long-term financial outlook.

    Medicare Add-on for Inpatient Hospital COVID-19 Patients. Increases the payment that would otherwise be made to a hospital for treating a patient admitted with COVID-19 by 20%. It would build on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decision to expedite use of a COVID-19 diagnosis to enable better surveillance as well as trigger appropriate payment for these complex patients. This add-on payment would be available through the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period.

    Grants to the V.A.: Provides $14.4 billion to the Veteran’s Administration for medical services.

    CDC: Provides $4.3 billion to the CDC. Of these funds, $1.5 billion is set aside for grants to states, territories and tribes to help carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities.

    Strategic National Stockpile: Provides $16 billion in funding for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies.

    Hospital Preparedness: Provides $250 million for grants to improve the capacity of healthcare facilities to respond to medical events.

    Rural Health: Provides $180 million to expand services and capacity for rural hospitals, telehealth, poison control centers.

    Health Savings Accounts for Telehealth Services. Allows a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA) to cover telehealth services prior to a patient reaching the deductible.

    Providing Hospitals Medicare Advance Payments. Expands, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period, an existing Medicare accelerated payment program. Specifically, qualified facilities would be able to request up to a six month advanced lump sum or periodic payment. This advanced payment would be based on net reimbursement represented by unbilled discharges or unpaid bills. Most hospital types could elect to receive up to 100% of the prior period payments, with Critical Access Hospitals able to receive up to 125%. Finally, a qualifying hospital would not be required to start paying down the loan for four months, and would also have at least 12 months to complete repayment without a requirement to pay interest.

    Extension of Physician Work Geographic Index Floor. Extends payments for the work component of physician fees in areas where labor cost is determined to be lower than the national average through December 1, 2020.

    National Academies Report on America’s Medical Product Supply Chain Security: Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to examine and report on the security of the United States medical product supply chain. Part of the report requires the examination of the United States’ dependence on critical drugs and devices that are sourced or manufactured outside of the U.S.

    Requiring the Strategic National Stockpile to Include Certain Supplies: Requires the strategic national stockpile to include personal protective equipment, ancillary medical supplies, and other applicable supplies required for the administration of drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, and diagnostic tests.

    Preventing Medical Device Shortages: Requires manufacturers of medical devices that are critical during public health emergencies to notify the federal government of any discontinuance or interruption to manufacturing of the device that could disrupt the supply of the device in the U.S. The information will be used to compile a list of devices that are determined to be in short supply.

    Rapid Coverage of Preventive Services and Vaccines for Coronavirus: Requires insurers to cover without cost-sharing any qualifying coronavirus preventive service. Qualifying preventive services include any evidence-based item, service, or immunization that is intended to prevent or mitigate coronavirus disease.

    Increased Funding for Health Centers: Provides $1.3 billion in additional funding to community health centers in fiscal year 2020.

    Telehealth Network and Resource Center Grants: Provides $29 million per year through 2025 and reauthorizes Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant programs that promote the use of telehealth technologies for health care delivery, education, and health information services.

    Rural health care services outreach, rural health network development, and small health care provider quality improvement grant programs. Provides $79.5 million per year through 2025 and reauthorizes HRSA grant programs to strengthen rural community health by focusing on quality improvement, increasing health care access, coordination of care, and integration of services.

    Limitation on liability for volunteer health care professionals during COVID-19 emergency response. Makes clear that doctors who provide volunteer medical services during the public health emergency related to COVID-19 have liability protections. In order to have the liability protections provided by the bill, a volunteer provider must be acting within the scope of their license, registration or certification as defined by the state.

    Health Care Workforce

    Reauthorization of health professions workforce programs.

    Provides $51.4 million per year between 2021 and 2025 for scholarships to health care students. The funding is given to eligible entities, which includes schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, optometry, public health, etc.

    Provides $48.9 million per year for the primary care training and enhancement program. Adds language prioritizing grant awards to programs that train physicians in rural areas.

    Provides $41.2 million for eligible entities to establish health care workforce educational programs.

    Provides $1.1 million per year for a loan repayment program for medical, dental and nursing students who agree to serve as faculty following graduation.

    Provides $15 million per year to provide educational assistance to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue health care education.

    Extension of Demonstration Projects to Address Health Professions Workforce Needs: Extends the Health Professions Opportunity Grants (HPOG) program through November 30, 2020 at current funding levels. This program provides funding to help low-income individuals obtain education and training in high-demand, well-paid, health care jobs.

    Education and training relating to geriatrics. Provides $40.7 million per year and reauthorizes and updates Title VII of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), which pertains to programs to support clinician training and faculty development, including the training of practitioners in family medicine, general internal medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, and other medical specialties. It emphasizes integration of geriatric care into existing service delivery locations and care across settings, including home- and community-based services. The Secretary may provide  awardees with additional support for activities in areas of demonstrated need, which may include education and training for home health workers, family caregivers, and direct care workers on care for older adults. Eligible entities could receive awards of at least $75,000.

    Economic Relief

    Recovery Rebates for Americans: Provides a one-time payment of $1,200 to individuals with incomes below $75,000 or a one-time payment of  $2,400 for joint filers with incomes below $150,000. Payments are increased by $500 per child. The bill requires the one-time payments to be made as soon as possible.

    Relief Payments to States, Tribal Governments and Local Units of Government: Provides $150 billion in direct payments to states, tribal governments and local units of government with. To qualify, local governments must have populations of more than 500,000 people. Payments are required to be used to cover expenditures related to COVID-19 that occur between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. Expenditures must not have been accounted for in the state or local government’s most recent budget. The bill requires the Treasury Secretary  to make these payments within 30 days of enactment.

    Loans for Small Businesses, Non-profits, Contractors and Self-Employed Individuals. Allows nonprofits and other businesses with less than 500 employees to get loans from the Small Business Administration if they were adversely impacted by COVID-19. Loans can be used to cover payroll costs, health care benefits, mortgage or rent payments, utilities or interest on debt. Borrowers will be eligible for loan forgiveness if they maintain employees and their salaries. The eligibility period runs from February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020. Maximum loan amounts will be determined using the organization's average monthly payroll amounts over a one year period. The bill appropriates $349 billion for this loan program.

    Employee retention credit for employers subject to closure due to COVID-19. Provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order, or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same quarter in the prior year.

    Small Business Administration Disaster Loans: Provides $562 million to the Disaster Loan Program.

    Broadband and Telehealth

    Rural Utilities Service--Distance Learning, Telemedicine and Broadband Program: Provides $25 million for telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas.

    Reconnect Pilot: Provides $100 million for grants for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

    Federal Communications Commission Telehealth: Provides $200 million to the FCC to respond to COVID-19. This includes supporting health care providers by providing telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to enable the provision of telehealth services.

    Higher Education and Student Loans

    Temporary Relief for Federal Student Loan Borrowers: Requires the Secretary to defer student loan payments, principal, and interest for 6 months, through September 30, 2020, without penalty to the borrower for all federally owned loans.

    Adjustments of Subsidized Loan Limits. For students who dropped out of school as a result of COVID -19 excludes the term from counting toward lifetime subsidized loan eligibility.

    Exclusion from Federal Pell Grant Duration Limit. For students who dropped out of school as a result of COVID -19 excludes the term from counting toward lifetime Pell eligibility.

    Institutional Refund and Federal Student Loan Flexibility. For students who dropped out of school as a result of COVID -19, the student is not required to return Pell grants or federal student loans to the Secretary. Waives the requirement that institutions calculate the amount of grant or loan assistance that the institution must return to the Secretary in the case of students who dropped out of school as a result of COVID-19

    Exclusion for certain employer payments of student loans: Allows employers to provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. Under the provision, an employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s income. The $5,250 cap applies to both the new student loan repayment benefit as well as other educational assistance (e.g., tuition, fees, books) provided by the employer under current law. The provision applies to any student loan payments made by an employer on behalf of an employee after date of enactment and before January 1, 2021.

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