Governor Jim Doyle this week signed into law Assembly Bill 770, the Critical Access Hospitals Bill. This bill ensures that the 59 communities that are served by Critical Access Hospitals can leverage additional resources and federal funding. The Governor was joined by supporters of the bill at a signing event at the Columbus Community Hospital .
“The Critical Access Hospitals Bill is a win for rural hospitals and taxpayers,” Governor Doyle said. “Additional federal funds will help these hospitals avoid payment reductions and damaging cuts to jobs and services. And it will actually increase payments to rural hospitals that serve a lot of Medicaid patients. This is a good bill and it represents what we can do – even in these really tough national economic times – when we work together to support Wisconsin ’s rural communities and hospitals.”
The Critical Access Hospitals Bill builds on the success of hospital assessment legislation supporting Wisconsin ’s large urban and suburban hospitals to help leverage resources and federal funding for small rural hospitals that have been designated as “Critical Access Hospitals.” At a time when health care costs and uncompensated care costs are on the rise throughout the nation, the assessment has allowed the state to leverage federal funding and invest nearly hundreds of millions of dollars into Medicaid support to hospitals while also reducing the cost of uncompensated care.
In addition, funds leveraged through this bill will be used to help train additional doctors to serve in rural areas. Assembly Bill 770 doubles the maximum amount of loan repayment for doctors who decide to practice in a rural area – increasing it from $50,000 to $100,000. In addition, the bill directs the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health to create family medicine residency programs and rotations at rural hospitals, to help doctors gain experience in critical access hospital settings.
Governor Doyle thanked Representatives Hraychuck and Ballweg and Senators Miller, Kreitlow and Olsen for their work on the bill. Governor Doyle also thanked Columbus Community Hospital CEO Ed Harding for chairing the Committee on Rural Health Care that brought together the Wisconsin Hospital Association and the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative to help develop the bill.
Since taking office in 2003, Governor Doyle has worked hard to make Wisconsin America’s health care leader. Under Governor Doyle’s leadership, Wisconsin now ranks second in the country in the percentage of people with access to health care and first in health care quality. Every Wisconsin child now has access to health care through Governor Doyle’s BadgerCare Plus plan. In addition, the Governor’s BadgerCare Plus Core Plan has provided standard health benefits for low income adults without dependent children – a program that now has a waiting list of nearly 40,000 people due to budget limits. In January, Governor Doyle proposed a new, entirely self-funded health care plan called BadgerCare Plus Basic for those adults on that waiting list. Governor Doyle again called on the Legislature to quickly pass BadgerCare Plus Basic to help thousands of people on the Core waiting list purchase coverage that will provide basic care at no cost to taxpayers.
Governor Doyle is also positioning Wisconsin to use national health care reform to build on the state’s successful reform efforts and ensure the state’s residents and businesses realize the benefits of reform as soon as possible. Earlier this month, Governor Doyle created the Office of Health Care Reform co-led by the Secretary of Health Services and the Commissioner of Insurance, that will develop an implementation plan that uses national health care reform to build on Wisconsin ’s successful efforts and existing programs.
The Governor also recently announced the creation of a new state website – www.healthcarereform.wisconsin.gov – that will provide Wisconsin residents with information about reform, the phases of implementation, and how changes may benefit them