8 take-a-ways from WHA Advocacy Day April 24

Man with megaphone#1: Legislators don’t bite. The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) set-up the opportunity for us to meet local legislators. I met with Senator Timothy Cullen (Democrat, 15th Senate District) and Representative Joseph Knilans (Republican, 44th Assembly District), both from Janesville. It was the highlight of my day. We discussed topics relating to issues in Janesville and Rock County, such as our economy, access and cost of health care, focus on attracting new businesses and education. I left feeling my voice mattered and, as individuals, we can really make an impact in our local communities.

# 2: There’s a lot to consider in an election year. The keynote speaker, Kellyanne Conway, republican strategist and President/CEO of The Polling Company, Inc., presented on “The Pulse of the Nation.” Good timing in an election year. Here are a few tidbits I learned:

  • Wisconsin is a key swing state, meaning no one candidate has overwhelming support.
  • The political pendulum swung from Wisconsin being a democratic blue state in 2008, to a red republican state in 2010 with newly elected republican officials.
  • While the 2008 election was very much about inspiration, the 2012 election will be more about aspiration and who can lead this country.
  • Voters are more concentrated on real issues that are affecting them, such as the economy, access to healthcare and government spending. Note pollsters reflected voters are more concerned about the access to health care, than the cost of health care.

Conway sited predictions in voting for the 2012 election:

President, Barack Obama Mitt Romney
Women 53% 40%
White males 34% 60%
18-29-year-olds 61% 33%
Independents 42% 48%
ALL 49% 45%
  • Conway predicts the white working class households and women voters are key to this year’s election.
  • President Barack Obama would need 58-59% of all women votes to win a re-election. In the 2008 presidential race, 56% of women voted for Obama.
  • Sixty-six percent of 18-24 year-olds voted for Obama in 2008. Their current approval rating of Obama is 46%.
  • For the first time in history, there is more student loan debt than credit card debt. Total student loan debt looms large at one trillion dollars.

#3: Women continue to manage household healthcare decisions. They often manage the health care needs of their spouse, kids, parents and even pets! Women spend two of every three health care dollars in the United States.

#4: Women not only play an important role at home managing the health care needs of their loved ones, but they have a significant impact in the medical field. Following are the percentages of women in particular health care roles.

Nurses 90%
Physicians 32%
Pharmacy 49%
Home care 98%

#5: Wisconsin hospitals are leading by example. Our hospitals focus on quality and cost to improve health care value, making Wisconsin more competitive.

The following are examples of initiatives that set our state apart from the pack.

  • Ninety-eight percent of Wisconsin hospitals are enrolled in “Partners for Patients,” and initiative to reduce inpatient health care associated complications by 40% and readmissions by 20% over three years.
  • Hospitals across Wisconsin are engaged in multiple efforts to improve quality and outcomes.
  • Better quality, better outcomes, and better value–three factors that make Wisconsin more competitive in a global economy.
  • Our hospitals are an asset to our communities, employing 110,000 individuals; providing more than $232 million in charity care; and delivering total community benefits valued at $1.4 billion in 2010.

#6: Proposed federal cuts to hospital Medicare and Medicaid payments must be considered in state-level policy making and will impact access to care. We can take the time to send a letter to our legislators raising awareness of these issues that will affect access to care in our community. Click here for a sample letter you can use to send to your local legislators.

  • Wisconsin hospitals are taking billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid payment cuts due to current federal policies.
  • Congress continues to target hospitals for cuts, which will affect access to care for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens and negatively impact the entire state budget.
  • Wisconsin hospitals are leaders in delivering high-quality, high-value health care, but continued cuts impact that delivery system and access to care in Wisconsin communities.

#7: We need to train, hire and retain more physicians in Wisconsin! Action must be taken to meet the challenge of 100 more physicians a year to address Wisconsin’s shortage of 2,000 physicians by 2030.

  • Talk to your local legislators and encourage them to collect physician workforce data to assist in retention policy; continue to maintain Wisconsin’s favorable medical malpractice environment; and continuing to fund the Wisconsin Rural Physician Assistance Program.
  • Interesting fact: WI graduates 340 physicians per year, of which only 38% stay and practice in WI.

#8: It’s time to get engaged in the legislative process. The greatest thing I learned from Advocacy Day is we all have a voice and play an important role in our local communities. We can take our industry experience, day-to-day experiences with patients, health care providers and administrators, and get involved in the legislative process. Volunteer in community organizations or task force teams within the hospital setting, and listen to the needs of those we serve.

Whether we are directly involved in patient care or not, we are all in a position to listen to the pulse of our local communities. It’s part of our job, and critical in these changing times, to relay our experiences and insight to our legislators who create policies on our behalf.

For more information, and to stay engaged with changes in health care policy and legislative issues, visit the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s web site at: www.wha.org.

If you are interested in helping shape your own hospital’s future, consider joining the Hospitals, Education and Advocacy Team (HEAT). HEAT provides you the information, the insight, the strategy and the assistance you need in order to bring light to legislative issues that impact your hospitals and communities you serve. Visit HEAT online at: www.wha.org/speakUp/heat.aspx

Additionally, watch for the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society’s (WHPRMS) monthly blogs, in partnership with WHA, where we feature monthly blogs exploring new issues impacting Wisconsin’s hospitals and health systems. You can find our blogs at: www.whprms.org/blog.

Heather Sullivan | WHPRMS president

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