Latest News 


  • February 20, 2017 8:11 AM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    February 15, Wisconsin Health News 

    Group Insurance Board members sent a letter last week to lawmakers, revealing more information on the process they used when deciding to self-fund and regionalize the health plan for state employees. 

    Their plan, approved last week, would shift the state away from a fully insured model, which involves 18 companies, to a model with six vendors. They estimate the move could save more than $60 million in the 2017-'19 state budget from reduced administrative and insurer risk fees as well as improved discounts. Department of Employee Trust Funds spokesman Mark Lamkins did not provide a further breakdown of the savings. 

    Any self-insurance contract is subject to approval by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

    The board selected Compcare Health Services Insurance Corp. to offer a statewide option as well as a regional option. The other companies serving regions would be Dean Health Plan, HealthPartners Administrators, Network Health Administrative Services, Security Administrative Services and Quartz, which is affiliated with Unity Health Insurance and Gundersen Health Plan. 

    In a letter sent Friday to JFC co-chairs, GIB Chair Mike Farrell and board member Stacey Rolston, who is a deputy administrator in the Division of Personnel Management at the Department of Administration, wrote that those participating in the state employee health plan will have greater access to providers than are currently available to most members under a proposed move to self-insurance because CompCare has a broader network. 

    They also wrote that providers that are part of Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, which did not respond to an RFP on administering the program, will be included via other third party administrators. In addition, Physicians Plus, which responded to the RFP but wasn't selected as a vendor, is exploring a partnership with Unity and Gundersen, according to the letter. 

    According to GIB, nine companies responded to the RFP. That also included Mayo Clinic Health Solutions, the self-insurance business unit of Health Traditions Health Plan, which wasn't chosen. WEA Trust also participated in the process and did not receive an offer.  

    GIB noted that many of the plans with minimal participant enrollment in the program chose not to respond, including Arise, Group Health Cooperative - Eau Claire, MercyCare Health Plans and Medical Associates. 

    But Patrick Cranley, MercyCare chief operating officer, said GIB's characterization was "a little bit disingenuous." 

    "We could not respond to the RFP because the RFP required that respondents be able to serve an entire region defined by the RFP," Cranley said. He called it "a conscious decision to limit the number" of plans participating in the state program. 

    Cranley called the board's decision an "unfortunate choice" for the wider market as it eliminates a number of high quality community health plans from participation in the health plan.

    "I think it does long-term damage to the competitive insurance market in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "You're essentially perhaps even crippling some of the plans that are smaller plans that provide important competition in the markets in which they participate."

    Cranley said MercyCare serves 1,400 members in Jefferson, Rock and Walworth Counties through the state plan. That's out of 48,000 total members for his plan.

    "I would prefer to continue to serve these folks and let them have access to our health plan," he added. 

    ETF often pursues an "aggressive education campaign" to ensure participants understand their choices under the program, according to the letter. The communication strategy for 2018 "will be unprecedented," Farrell and Rolston wrote.

    The board plans to finish contract negotiations by the end of March.

    Read the letter.

  • February 17, 2017 5:17 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    Increasing prescription drug costs have caught the attention of the President and the public. What's behind the rapid rise and how far are lawmakers willing to go?

    Would allowing Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers make an impact? What about cutting taxes and regulations? And would lower prices mean less innovation?  

    Learn more at a Wisconsin Health News Panel Event March 7 at the Madison Club.  Panelists include: Holly Campbell, Senior Director of Public Affairs, PhRMA; Dr. Mark Huth, CEO, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin; Andy Pulvermacher, Specialty Services Supervisor, UW Health; and Paul Rosowski, Senior Director, Industry Relations and Contracting, Navitus Health Solutions.

    Learn more and register (link). 

  • February 17, 2017 5:06 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    February 8, Wisconsin Hospital Association

    As you know, physicians are often assigned a role with a hospital or health system’s quality department or committee or asked to lead a quality improvement project.

    The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) has developed an important resource for physicians and advance practice providers who have an assigned role related to quality measurement and improvement within a WHA member hospital or health system. The WHA Physician Quality Academy will provide physicians the opportunity to increase their knowledge of quality improvement tools and principles; therefore, increasing the likelihood that a physician will be more successful in and comfortable with this leadership role.

    The Academy offers two non-consecutive days of in-person training and access to supporting resources both between and after the live sessions: May 10 and July 21, 2017 at the Glacier Canyon Lodge at The Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells; OR September 29 and November 3, 2017 at the Glacier Canyon Lodge at The Wilderness Resort, Wisconsin Dells.

    As part of the Academy, participants will learn to:
    • design and conduct quality improvement projects utilizing proven improvement models;
    • interpret data correctly;
    • facilitate physician colleague engagement in quality improvement and measurement ;and,
    • discuss quality requirements, medical staff functions and their link to quality improvement.
    The Academy is offered twice in 2017 (dates below), allowing physicians associated with a WHA member hospital/health system to choose the cohort that works best for his/her schedule. Attendance will be limited to the first 100 registrants per cohort, so if interested, register today at http://www.cvent.com/d/wvq5nm. Download brochure (link). 
  • February 17, 2017 5:03 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    February 8, Wisconsin Health News

    The Group Insurance Board voted 10 to 1 to self-fund and regionalize the health plan for state and local employees at a meeting Wednesday. They estimate the move would save more than $60 million over the 2017-2019 biennium.

    An additional $30 million in fees under the federal health reform law could be avoided by moving to a self-funded regionalized model. GIB gave the Department of Employee Trust Funds the power to enter into contract negotiations to move to a self-funded health plan effective Jan. 1, 2018.  

    Compcare Health Services Insurance Corp., run by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin, will serve as the third party administrator for a statewide option.

    Security Administrative Services will serve the northern region of the state. Compcare and Network Health Administrative Services will serve the eastern part of the state.

    Dean Health Plan and Quartz will cover the southern part of the state. HealthPartners Administrators Inc. will cover the western region.

    The contracts will be for three years. They are subject to Joint Finance Committee approval.

  • February 03, 2017 9:00 AM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    ACEP has launched its #ILookLikeAnERDoc Campaign on the organization's Facebook and Twitter channels to promote the importance diversity and inclusion. Learn and share why diversity matters to emergency physicians.

  • January 24, 2017 12:34 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    Advocacy is the Cure for the Political Frustrations of 2016
    By Bobby Redwood, MD, WACEP President

    You don't need me to tell you; 2016 was kind of a rough year. We lost Bowie, Prince, and Princess Leia. Zika cast its shadow over our vacations, while authoritarian regimes thrived, the E.U. frayed, and democracy stumbled. The political tension in America and in Wisconsin reached a fever pitch throughout one of history's most negative presidential campaigns ever and then, on November 9th, republican and democratic physicians alike were left exhausted and confused, wondering what will happen to our patients and our profession under the Trump administration.

    Well, we at WACEP implore you: don't despair! Here are some of the (solvable) challenges that we, as emergency physicians, can expect in the upcoming year.

    • The Affordable Care Act will likely go away. Will it just be a name change (it was basically RomneyCare after all)? Will the individual mandate be undone leaving a glut of 234,000 uninsured patients in its wake? Will Medicaid really be transformed into a block grant system as many have foreseen? 
    • The opiate epidemic will continue to challenge our state and our state's physician workforce. Will the new ePDMP provide the accountability and real-time information that we were promised it would? Will the new medical examining board CME help get all providers on the same page in terms of best practices for opiate prescriptions? Will WACEP's opiate prescribing guidelines have the reach and influence that we are hoping they will have?
    • Mental health services will evolve...for the better? Suicide is at a 30-year high and fewer than half of the 800,000 Wisconsinites who need mental health treatment actually get professional help. A consensus bill, the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680), passed the Senate HELP committee in March 2016 and will likely come to vote in the Senate this year. If passed, will it deliver the community crisis response systems and increased access to acute psychiatric hospital care that were anticipated? Will the Wisconsin psychiatric bed database come to fruition? Will psychiatric transfers from Wisconsin EDs become easier to facilitate?

    Engagement is the way forward. Emergency physicians are problem solvers, and whether your motivated by compassion for your patients, consideration for your physician-group, or simple self-preservation; we at WACEP need you to step forward and engage with your colleagues, so that we can solidify our message, amplify our voice, and help solve the challenges ahead together. Need a roadmap for getting engaged in emergency medicine advocacy? Here are the next steps:

    1. Register for the March 28th WACEP Spring Symposium. Get the 4-1-1 on emergency medicine advocacy from national ACEP president Rebecca Parker. REGISTER HERE.
    2. Sign up for the March 29th Doctor Day event at the Capitol. Feel the comradery of your profession as hundreds of physicians swarm the state capitol. REGISTER HERE.
    3. Attend the March WACEP listening tour in Merrill, WI. Let us know how WACEP can better serve your needs. REGISTER HERE.
    4. Donate to the WACEP PAC. Since its inception, the WACEP PAC has given emergency physicians unprecedented access to state lawmakers. As our PAC grows, so does our collective voice. DONATE HERE.
    5. Reach out to your legislators. There is no better cure for political frustration than connecting directly with your lawmakers and making your voice heard.

    There is no doubt that the healthcare landscape will be changing in 2017 and we have the power to shape the future of our practices and our specialty. By showing up, by putting our money where our mouth is, by connecting with our peers and our political leaders; emergency physicians can use the same strength and tenacity that we exude in our clinical work to shape the future of emergency medicine in Wisconsin.  

    Thank you to each and every emergency physician in Wisconsin for your dedication to your patients, colleagues, and profession. Whether you are excited about the Trump shake-up or sense a bad moon rising, now, more than ever, we need physician engagement in local and national advocacy.

  • January 23, 2017 10:50 AM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) launched the new Wisconsin Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (ePDMP) on January 17, replacing the former program.

    2015 Act 266 requires physicians and other prescribers to review patient information from the ePDMP before issuing a prescription for any controlled substance beginning April 1, 2017. (More information, including exceptions to the requirement to consult the PDMP, in this nonpartisan Legislative Council memo.)

    Be ready with the following information in order to register for the ePDMP, and note that prior login credentials no longer work.

    • Last name.
    • Last four digits of your social security number.
    • License number.
    • License type (profession).
    • Specialty or primary area of practice.
    • DEA number.

     The ePDMP supports current browsers and two previous versions, except it only supports the current and previous version of Internet Explorer. If you experience issues, DSPS suggests that you update your browser.

    Once the registration process is complete, users can begin looking up patients and managing delegates. The multistate search function will be available to both prescribers and their delegates as soon as their accounts are established. Training materials, including brief tutorial videos and information about creating and maintaining delegates are available at pdmp.wi.gov.

    If you have questions or experience problems with the registration process, contact pdmp@wisconsin.gov.

  • January 11, 2017 2:34 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    The Assembly Committee on Health and the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services for the 2017-18 Session have been set. Committee membership is as follows:

    Assembly Committee on Health

    • Representative Joe Sanfelippo, R- New Berlin (Chair)
    • Representative Kathy Bernier, R – Chippewa Falls (Vice-Chair)
    • Representative James Edming, R – Glen Flora
    • Representative Ken Skowronski, R - Franklin
    • Representative Jesse Kremer, R - Kewaskum
    • Representative Chuck Wichgers, R - Muskego
    • Representative Dave Murphy, R - Greenville
    • Representative Andre Jacque, R – De Pere
    • Representative Deb Kolste, D Janesville
    • Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, D – Milwaukee
    • Representative Lisa Subeck, D - Madison
    • Representative Chris Taylor, D - Madison

    Senate Committee on Health and Human Services

    • Senator Leah Vukmir, R – Brookfield (Chair)
    • Senator Terry Moulton, R – Chippewa Falls (Vice-Chair)
    • Senator Devin LeMahieu, R - Oostburg
    • Senator Jon Erpenbach, D - Middleton
    • Senator LaTonya Johnson, D - Milwaukee
  • January 11, 2017 2:26 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    January 6, Wisconsin Health  News

    Gov Scott Walker called for a special session of the Legislature Thursday to consider 11 bills that aim to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. 

    The bills are based on recommendations from a task force that Walker convened last year, chaired by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette. 

    The task force released an interim report Thursday. Even though it hasn't finished its work, the opioid and heroin epidemic are "such a crisis to deal with, we need to start acting now," Walker said.

    "We need to tackle this issue head on," Walker told attendees of a Wisconsin Bankers Association event in Madison Thursday. "Not because it's a quality of life, not because it's a public health issue, but because it's a key part of our workforce."

    Among the proposals the Legislature will consider are bills that would in the 2017-'19 biennium provide $2 million to support new medically assisted treatment centers, $1 million for consultation services helping medical professionals connect with addiction medicine specialists and $126,000 to the rural hospital graduate training program.

    Another bill would provide money to the Department of Justice to fund criminal investigation agents focused on drug trafficking. And another would expand the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment training program offered by the Department of Public Instruction.

    "All of us know someone personally affected by a heroin overdose or drug death," Kleefisch said in a statement. "Together, we're going to continue this initiative as we look for new ideas and evaluate the impact of the policies we've adopted the past several years."

    An additional proposal would allow school personnel that can administer life-saving drugs like EpiPens to use the anti-overdose drug Naloxone. And two more would require schedule V substances that contain codeine like some cough syrups by dispensed with a prescription and extend limited immunity from prosecution to overdose victims.

    Other bills include permitting the University of Wisconsin System to open a recovery school for students who need in-patient care and allowing relatives to commit a drug-addicted family member in the same way as is currently allowed for alcoholism.

    Walker's order doesn't include all the recommendations made in the report, such as providing $2 million over the next biennium for Wisconsin hospitals to hire in-house recovery coaches. His spokesman said the bills are in the final stages of draft form and will be released when introduced.

    Another order signed by Walker Thursday directs state agencies to pursue a number of different initiatives to curb opioid abuse, including having the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance conduct a survey of opioid addiction treatment coverage for major insurers in Wisconsin. 

    "The recommendations included in this report are not the silver bullet," said Nygren, who's authored 17 laws fighting drug abuse though his Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education Agenda. "I look forward to continuing the fight."  

    Wisconsin Hospital Association CEO Eric Borgerding noted that the interim report includes recommendations they suggested, like providing investments in fellowship training for addiction medicine and streamlining regulations for healthcare providers that are trying to expand access to substance abuse treatment.

    Wisconsin Medical Society Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donn Dexter called the package of bills "ambitious, which is exactly what dealing with this crisis demands." The Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin said the proposals aim to increase access to treatments and prevent new addictions.

    "We're especially excited about the investments to increase the number of providers available and in telemedicine," Bernie Sherry, senior vice president and Ministry market executive for Ascension Wisconsin, said in a statement. "This is a good day for Wisconsin." 

    Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said they'll likely maintain their current session calendar for when the full body meets. 

    Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said they hope to have the bills ready for committee hearings by the end of the month.

    Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said the urgency of the special session is warranted.  

    "The opioid epidemic in our state is a very serious issue that requires a very aggressive response," Barca said in a statement. "I hope the committees will collect input from those who know this issue firsthand -from law enforcement, to educators, to medical professionals - as this will help us address this crisis in the most comprehensive manner possible."

    Walker also signed an order directing the Department of Health Services to apply for funding available through the 21st Century Cures Act, which was approved by the federal government last year. The act makes $7.6 million per year available for two years to Wisconsin. His order directs the department to apply for the grants by Feb. 17.   

    Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, said she helped lead the effort in Congress to include $1 billion in the act for the opioid epidemic. 

    "The opioid epidemic is not a partisan issue, and a strong partnership between the federal government and our state is essential to an effective response," she said in a statement. "This is a significant step forward for communities fighting the opioid epidemic across Wisconsin."

  • January 11, 2017 2:22 PM | Sally Winkelman (Administrator)

    The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) plans to launch the new Wisconsin Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (ePDMP) on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

    2015 Act 266 requires physicians and other prescribers to check patient information from the ePDMP before issuing a prescription for any controlled substance beginning April 1, 2017. (More information, including exceptions to the requirement to consult the PDMP, in this nonpartisan Legislative Council memo).

    All prescribers will have to register to use the ePDMP—even if they are registered with and use the current system, which is being replaced and will not be available after Jan. 17.

    The new ePDMP is designed to promote streamlined workflow integrations and improved data quality using analytics and visualizations to draw user’s attention to the most relevant and possibly concerning data in each report.

    Questions about the ePDMP can be directed to pdmp@wisconsin.gov.