TUE AM News: Uncompensated care in Wisconsin up $50 million over prior fiscal year, report shows; Wisconsin’s preterm birth rate improves in 2020

— Wisconsin hospitals provided $50 million more in uncompensated medical care during fiscal year 2020 than in the prior fiscal year, with the increase driven by more unpaid medical bills. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual Uncompensated Health Care Report shows hospitals in the state provided about $1.36 billion in uncompensated health care services during the latest fiscal year. That figure includes charity care for patients deemed unable to pay and “bad debt,” for which payment is expected but the hospital is unable to collect. A total of about 1.7 million patient visits account for these categories, the report shows. 

Charity care for fiscal year 2020 totaled $620.8 million, and bad debt totaled $742.7 million. By comparison, hospitals in fiscal year 2019 provided about $1.31 billion in uncompensated care, including $630.5 million in charity care and $682.9 million in bad debt. While charity care decreased by about $9.7 million over the fiscal year, bad debt increased by about $60 million. 

WHA Senior Vice President of Finance Brian Potter said comparing 2020 to any other year is complicated due to the various impacts of the pandemic on hospitals and health systems. In an interview yesterday, he explained that charity care may have decreased in part because more people were allowed to stay on Medicaid during the pandemic. He said these individuals would “typically get charity care” in years when more churn was seen in the Medicaid population. 

He also noted overall patient care activity decreased earlier in the pandemic, which he said “could have a relationship with charity care going down.” 

Potter also said the increase in bad debt could be explained by hospitals “writing off more things than they typically would” amid the pandemic, describing an “easing given that everybody was going through really tough times.” 

Of the 150 hospitals included in the WHA report, 63 provided more than $5 million in uncompensated health care in FY2020. Thirty-two of those hospitals reported over $5 million in charity care and 42 reported more than $5 million in bad debt. 

The report shows hospitals in Milwaukee County accounted for 28.5 percent of overall uncompensated care by dollar amount, with a total of over $388 million. That includes $222.8 million in charity care and $165.6 million in bad debt. 

Report authors note that assessing uncompensated care can be tricky. Many hospitals provide free or low-cost services for which the cost to the hospital is “not easily quantifiable,” and therefore can’t be included in the total for uncompensated care. 

They also point out that hospitals can only provide so much uncompensated care before it jeopardizes its financial stability. Hospitals can sometimes cover these costs by subsidizing them with revenue from other sources like investments, endowments, parking fees and gift shops, by increasing prices for services, or by shifting costs to other payers, according to the report. 

See the full report here: https://www.whainfocenter.com/Data-Products/Publications/Uncompensated-Health-Care-Report-Wisconsin/Uncompensated_2020  

— Wisconsin’s preterm birth rate improved slightly between 2019 and 2020, marking the first decrease in seven years. 

Babies that are born prematurely — before 37 weeks of pregnancy have elapsed — can face short- and long-term health problems including developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

The decline was highlighted in the 2021 March of Dimes Report Card, which includes national and state-level information on health metrics for mothers and infants. The state’s preterm birth rate improved from 10.1 percent in 2019 to 9.9 percent in 2020, the report shows. Before that, the rate had either increased or stayed the same every year since 2013, when the preterm birth rate was 9 percent. 

But while the rate of preterm births has improved slightly in Wisconsin, the report also highlights significant health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities in the state, particularly among Black mothers and babies. 

Wisconsin’s preterm birth rate among Black women is 65 percent higher than the rate among all other women, the report shows. These mothers had a 15.2 percent preterm birth rate for live births between 2017 and 2019.

Over the same period, that percentage was 12.2 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native mothers, 10 percent for Hispanic mothers, 9.1 percent for white mothers and 8.5 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander mothers. 

The report also shows Wisconsin’s infant mortality rate was slightly higher than the U.S. rate, at 5.8 per 1,000 live births compared to 5.6 per 1,000 births for the country overall. Leading causes of infant death highlighted in the report include birth defects, prematurity, low birth weight, maternal complications and sudden infant death syndrome. 

The state’s infant mortality rate has fluctuated between 5.7 and 6.4 per 1,000 live births between 2009 and 2019, most recently decreasing from 6.1 in 2018 to 5.8 in 2019, according to the report. 

On the national level, Wisconsin is ranked in the middle tier for these metrics, while states in the southeast region tended to fare worse while states on the West Coast and the northeast region were ranked better. 

See the full report: https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/reportcard.aspx 

See the release: 


— The latest economic trends report from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce shows the region’s economic recovery faltered in September, with fewer positive indicators than in August. 

Just 11 of the 21 economic indicators tracked in the MMAC report for September had improved over the year, which is down from 17 positive indicators in August. 

“The recovery’s momentum has definitely slowed in recent months with the aggregate number of improved indicators at its lowest level in six months,” Bret Mayborne, MMAC’s economic research director, said in a release. 

Four of the Milwaukee region’s 10 “major industry sectors” had job increases over the year. While the leisure and hospitality sector saw “strong growth” in employment over September 2020 with an increase of 13.4 percent, the financial activity sector saw a 6.4 percent decline. 

Meanwhile, the number of manufacturing jobs in the area increased 7.4 percent since September 2020. And earnings indicators for the sector “posted modest gains,” with average hourly earnings increasing 3.8 percent and average weekly earnings rising 2.3 percent over the year. But at the same time, average weekly hours for these workers decreased 1.5 percent to reach 38.7 hours. 

Milwaukee’s unemployment rate for September was 4.1 percent for the metro area, which is 2.2 percent lower than the previous September and below the national rate of 4.6 percent. But it’s higher than the state unemployment rate of 3.3 percent, the report shows. 

See the full report: https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/11122021_MMAC.pdf 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced $20 million in grants for 11 regions through the Worker Advancement Initiative. 

The grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and help local support worker training initiatives. Announced earlier this year, the effort aims to help those who’ve been unsuccessful in rejoining the workforce amid the pandemic. 

Local workforce development boards will be receiving between nearly $500,000 and over $5.3 million. Funds will be used to partner with community organizations, offering “subsidized employment and skills training opportunities.” These can include wage subsidies for on-the-job learning programs, skills training programs focused on “in-demand jobs,” as well as services to address employment barriers including child care, transportation and housing. 

Targeted industries include health care, manufacturing, tourism, construction and more, a release from the guv’s office shows. 

“Whether through job training or providing quality childcare, affordable housing, or accessible transportation, our workforce innovation funds will support folks working to overcome challenges specific to their community and their family and help get workers back in the workforce so we can ensure our state’s economic recovery,” Evers said in the release. 

See the full list of local awards:  https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/gov-evers-dwd-announce-20-million-in-workforce-advancement-initiative-grants-to-11-regions-in-wisconsin/ 

— The Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities Education and Economic Development Subcommittee has unanimously approved its final report.

All present members of the subcommittee in a hearing yesterday voted to approve and send to Speaker Robin Vos findings on how to address racial economic and education disparities throughout the state. Co-chair Rep. Robert Wittke, R-Racine, in a Capitol press conference later said the report focuses on improving literacy rates, increasing economic opportunities, increasing the number of minority teachers and addressing workforce housing deficiencies.

“From my perspective, we have met the task of exploring the issues as requested, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Wittke said, adding the work won’t end until all Wisconsin students are reading at grade-level and other issues are addressed.

Co-chair Rep. Kalan Haywood, D-Milwaukee, also at the press conference said he’s proud of the work he and fellow committee members accomplished.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done here and I am absolutely proud to see what comes forward from this, and we can get some actual change and get the ball rolling here in Wisconsin,” he said.

See more on the report at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/mon-pm-update-kleefisch-sues-over-elections-commission-guidance-on-drop-boxes-special-voting-deputies/ 

— Dem lawmakers have introduced 22 bills to address climate change, including some that reflect the work of a Gov. Tony Evers task force.

That includes legislation that would direct the Public Service Commission to double what investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities pay into Focus on Energy, which helps cover the costs of energy efficiency efforts. Utilities now pay 1.2 percent of their annual operating revenue into the program. The bill would double that to 2.4 percent. When Evers put it in his budget, the administration estimated the move would generate an additional $100 million annually.

Another bill would require the PSC to ensure at least 25 percent of the funds utilities contribute to Focus on Energy are spent on programs for low-income households.

See more on the bills at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/mon-pm-update-kleefisch-sues-over-elections-commission-guidance-on-drop-boxes-special-voting-deputies/ 


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– Employ Milwaukee’s Skillfull Transitions program awarded $5.3 million in ARPA funding


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– TSA doesn’t anticipate holiday travel delays at Wisconsin airports due to vaccine mandate



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<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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