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Health care groups raise concerns over lame duck agenda

Concerned about the potential consequences of a broad, complex bill affecting the state’s Medicaid program, the Wisconsin Medical Society joined more than two dozen health care groups in a letter opposing Senate Bill 886/Assembly Bill 1072.

The bill ultimately passed both houses of the legislature during a marathon “lame duck” session that spanned from Tuesday afternoon until just after sunrise on Wednesday. The package is now on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk awaiting final action and the Society has reached out to the Governor’s office to share continued concerns. His decision on any potential vetoes could come at any time – he has six days (Sunday excepted) after receiving the legislation to take any final action.

The legislation would write certain Medicaid waiver provisions into the state statutes, which could make it much harder for Wisconsin’s Medicaid program to adapt to conditions as the implementation of the waivers play out. For example, one waiver request approved in late October requires certain Medicaid recipients to engage in 80 hours of monthly “community engagement activities” such as working or receiving job training, with non-compliance eventually resulting in disenrollment from Medicaid for six months. The lame duck bill doesn’t allow the state’s Department of Health Services to request a suspension or termination of the waiver until December 31, 2023 without separate state legislation allowing such a request. Work requirements as a part of Medicaid eligibility is a relatively new issue across the country—early results in Arkansas have seen more than 10,000 recipients leave the program for failure to comply.

The companion bills were part of an extraordinary session—where the legislature calls itself into session outside of the typical regular business calendar of the 2017-2018 legislative biennium. The health care bill was part of a package aimed at limiting powers of the governor and attorney general; Republican leaders in the legislature claimed the measures were necessary to balance power between the executive and legislative branches while Democratic legislators labeled the session a “sour grapes” agenda in reaction to Democratic candidates winning all five statewide elections in November (governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and U.S. Senate).

Contact Mark Grapentine, JD, in the Society’s Government Relations Department for more information.

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