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State budget proposals address Medicaid, physician workforce

In preparation for his February 20 budget address, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced two proposals affecting physicians and patients this week. On Monday, he announced several workforce development initiatives, including funds to increase the number of physicians in Wisconsin. Two days later, he said he would seek a limited expansion of Medicaid rather than full expansion through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to a news release from Gov. Walker’s office, the proposal announced Wednesday will reduce the number of uninsured adults, ages 19-64, by 47 percent. “Under this plan, Wisconsinites in poverty will be covered by Medicaid and those above poverty up to four times the poverty level would receive federal health insurance premium subsidies to purchase health insurance offered in the exchange,” the release said.

Following the Governor’s announcement, press releases started flying like the February snow, with reaction split down party lines. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) have been leading the pro-expansion charge in the State Capitol, and issued a pointed statement expressing their disagreement with the Governor’s decision.

Wisconsin Medical Society staff members will carefully review this and other budget proposals that affect the care patients in Wisconsin receive. “Whether it’s a limited expansion of Medicaid or the implementation of a health insurance exchange, physicians must be included in the discussion,” said Rick Abrams, the Society’s chief executive officer. “It is the physician who recognizes, understands and honors the unique and special relationship with the patient.”

On Monday, Gov. Walker visited three health care organizations to announce his plans for increasing the number of physicians in Wisconsin. He outlined the plans at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital, Prairie du Chien; Mayo Clinic Health System, Eau Claire; and Ministry St. Mary’s Hospital, Rhinelander. He also visited St. Norbert College, De Pere, which is one of two locations chosen by the Medical College of Wisconsin for community-based medical education programs.

According to a news release from Gov. Walker’s office, the governor will propose during his budget address that the state provide $3 million to expand the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) and Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) programs at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The budget also will include $7.4 million in bonding for the Medical College of Wisconsin’s satellite campuses at St. Norbert College and in central Wisconsin plus an additional $1.75 million to add 12 family medicine residency slots.

Gov. Walker also will propose investing $4 million to create the Graduate Medical Education Consortium Funding Pool and $1 million to create the Medical Residency Grants for High Need Medical Professionals grant program. In addition, the budget proposal includes $5 million for the Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO) to “jumpstart the organization’s ability to produce consumer-focused health care cost and quality data,” the news release said. The Society is a founding member of WHIO.

Back to February 14, 2013 Medigram