The State Legislature passed, and the Governor has signed, the state's COVID-19 response package, which includes liability immunity provisions. A late amendment broadens the measure and ensures there is no ambiguity about protections applying to COVID and non-COVID patients alike.
The legislation also includes provisions that will help the state draw down additional federal dollars for Medicaid as well as a provision related to out of network billing.
Below is the liability immunity language as adopted.
SECTION 98. 895.4801 of the statutes is created to read:
895.4801 Immunity for health care providers during COVID-19 emergency.
(1) DEFINITIONS. In this section:
(a) “Health care professional” means an individual licensed, registered, or certified by the medical examining board under subch. II of ch. 448 or the board of nursing under ch. 441.
(b) “Health care provider” has the meaning given in s. 146.38 (1) (b) and includes an adult family home, as defined in s. 50.01 (1).
(2) IMMUNITY. Subject to sub. (3), any health care professional, health care provider, or employee, agent, or contractor of a health care professional or health care provider is immune from civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or any damages caused by actions or omissions that satisfy all of the following:
(a) The action or omission is committed while the professional, provider, employee, agent, or contractor is providing services during the state of emergency declared under s. 323.10 on March 12, 2020, by executive order 72, or the 60 days following the date that the state of emergency terminates.
(b) The actions or omissions relate to health services provided or not provided in good faith or are substantially consistent with any of the following:
(c) The actions or omissions do not involve reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.
(3) APPLICABILITY. This section does not apply if s. 257.03, 257.04, 323.41, or 323.44 applies.
Governor Evers announced that the state is seeking volunteers to support Wisconsin's healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Active and retired healthcare professionals and those who wish to help in non-clinical support positions are encouraged to sign up to volunteer through the Wisconsin Emergency Assistance Volunteer Registry (WEAVR).
The number of patients in Wisconsin who need to be treated for COVID-19 is expected to surge in the coming weeks. Building a network of available volunteers now will greatly reduce the hardships on hospitals and clinics that would not normally have the capacity to care for the increase in patients.
Both active and retired healthcare professionals can volunteer for critical clinical roles by entering their information into the WEAVR, a secure, password-protected, web-based volunteer registration system for healthcare and behavioral health professionals. Individuals who are not licensed professionals are also encouraged to sign up to volunteer for non-clinical support positions.
Volunteers will be assigned to locations across Wisconsin to support ongoing efforts related to the COVID-19 national emergency. Those who are willing to travel should note that when they sign up. All volunteers should also be aware that they will be required to complete a background check.
The full copy of the Governor’s press release is available online (link).
Governor Evers announced that Wisconsin has been granted a major disaster declaration for the entire state of Wisconsin, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration provides access to Public Assistance programs for all 72 Wisconsin counties and the state’s federally recognized tribes.
Gov. Evers earlier this week requested that the federal government provide the following programs to support the state’s response: Public Assistance, Direct Assistance, Hazard Mitigation (statewide), and certain Individual Assistance programs; Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) notified the state today that it is granting the request for Public Assistance to help provide reimbursement for emergency protective measures taken by state and local governments in their response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration also authorizes direct Federal Assistance which means when the State and local governments lack the capability to perform or to contract for eligible emergency work and/or debris removal, the State may request that the work be accomplished by a federal agency. The governor’s additional requests for assistance remain under review.
The major disaster declaration covers assistance to public entities, and will cover eligible projects submitted by counties, cities, townships, tribes, and certain private, not-for-profit organizations. Local governments in the declared counties are now eligible for federal assistance and should contact county emergency management directors for further information. Under the program, FEMA provides 75 percent of eligible costs, while the remaining 25 percent is the responsibility of state and local agencies.
The Governor’s full press release is available online (link).
The Department of Health Services announced the creation of the Resilient Wisconsin Initiative (website) on Friday, which provides Wisconsinites with resources to cope with stress and mental health challenges from COVID-19.
DHS recommends that Wisconsinites do the following:
A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters finds strong support for government actions to control the coronavirus pandemic, even as the poll also shows these actions to be having a substantial financial impact on voters.
The survey found:
A full copy of the survey is available online (link).
April 2, 2020
COVID-19 Crisis Prompts OCI Guidance to Insurers
Insurers are being asked to allow small employers of physicians and other health care workers (2 - 49 employees) to extend health care coverage to employees who work less than 30 hours per week or are furloughed due to COVID-19.
The Commissioner, Mark Afable, issued a bulletin on March 26 that “encourages insurers to make available the option of maintaining coverage under the group insurance plan for employees working fewer than 30 hours per week.”
The bulletin also “encourages insurers to work with employers to provide the option of continuing dental, vision and prescription drug benefits when offered as separate policies.”
With a stay at home order in place until at least April 24, this is an important development for small groups. And, if insurers follow these recommendations, it will eliminate the need to change providers or incur new deductibles and cost-sharing requirements once the crisis has passed and employees return to full-time work.
Telemedicine and temporary provider professional liability coverage
In a separate bulletin issued on March 31, OCI made it clear that insurers should do everything they can to help.
“At the direction of Governor Tony Evers, Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable issued a request to medical malpractice insurers today aimed at expanding access to telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and at ensuring retired and out-of-state health care workers can get the medical malpractice coverage in order to support the state's response to COVID-19.”
Bud Chumbley, MD, MBA, and CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society said, “It is extremely important for insurers to act now as all of Wisconsin steps up to the plate to minimize the severity of this crisis.”
Both of these bulletins were prompted by inquiries made to the OCI from members of the medical community as well as a significant amount of advocacy by the Society and its insurance agency WisMed Assure.
This is a fluid situation as insurers react to these recommendations. To get the most up-to-date information about your insurance coverage, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608.442.3810.
Christopher A. Noffke, GBDS
Director of Group Benefits
Society CEO participates on WMC panel
On Wednesday, Society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, was a panelist for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) weekly webinar addressing COVID-19 concerns. Dr. Chumbley conveyed to all those present the need for quicker testing of COVID-19 and the importance of collaboration between providers and systems during this crisis.
Dr. Chumbley also informed everyone of the Society’s efforts to reach out to over 1,800 retired physicians to help alleviate workforce and access concerns as well as the Society’s additional efforts to supply clinicians with the resources they need to deal with COVID-19.
During the call Dr. Chumbley was asked if the Governor’s “safer at home” order would be extended, and he stated that it would while emphasizing the need to take social distancing requirements seriously.
Please contact HJ Waukau with additional questions.
Discounted Telehealth for Clinics – Society Partners with Valet Health
The Wisconsin Medical Society has partnered with Valet Health, an innovative health care digital marketing company, to offer a streamlined – and HIPAA compliant – telehealth start-up service during the coronavirus pandemic.
It is imperative at this time to be inclusive in our efforts to overcome this virus; therefore, the Society is offering this service to members and nonmembers.
Please click here to learn more or contact Jim Lorence with questions.
Society COVID-19 Action Update
The Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) continues to advocate for physician and patient needs during this pandemic as Wisconsin’s physicians continue to provide high-quality care while putting themselves at risk. The Society’s efforts over the last week have produced tangible results in the fight against COVID-19.
Creation of temporary licenses
Governor Evers issued an order on March 27 easing regulations for retired physicians to return to the workforce and allowing physicians to work across state lines on a temporary basis. The Society worked with the Evers Administration to create these temporary licenses which are tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration.
The Society reached out to retired physicians to identify who would be interested in helping during this crisis. We appreciate all the responses and interest we have received already from retired physicians. If you are a retired physician who is interested in helping during the crisis, please complete this short form.
Medical Malpractice guidance
In conjunction with Governor Evers’s order, the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) issued guidance directing medical malpractice insurers to treat telehealth services the same is if those services were provided in person. In addition, OCI is directing malpractice insurers to work with providers with temporary licenses created under the Governor’s order to obtain coverage. This guidance was directly influenced by the Society’s actions and engagement.
In that same order Governor Evers temporarily eased telemedicine guidelines in general and allowed physicians to work across state lines with a temporary license. The order also directed OCI to facilitate coverage outside of traditional settings and to work with insurers on ways to minimize barriers to telehealth. This order was created with Society collaboration.
Both the Department of Health Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have announced new guidelines for telehealth. This includes coverage and reimbursement parity, establishing new patient relationships, in-home consultations and telephone-only services among many other policy expansions.
State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC)
Society CEO Bud Chumbley, MD, has been in contact with the SEOC on a number of issues and will be joining its Sector Support Task Force. This will provide the Society and the state’s physicians with an active voice in how the emergency actions of the state are handled.
Safe Harbor for COVID-19
The Society will be working with all relevant stakeholders to create a liability safe harbor for physicians providing care during the COVID-19 crisis. Discussions are ongoing and details will follow.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The Governor announced Tuesday that Wisconsin will be receiving its second shipment of PPE from the national stockpile. The Society has been working with the Evers Administration to stress the continued need for PPE and supports all efforts to increase both access and supply.
If you have questions about how to access the stockpile, please contact your local county emergency management coordinator. Additional information can be found here.
Governor Evers today announced a second package of comprehensive legislative proposals that would provide critical investments in health services, support for essential workers, and assistance for Wisconsin families and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s announcement today comes just days after Gov. Evers announced a first piece of legislation, which included additional funding and flexibility for public health professionals and healthcare professionals, a repeal of the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance, expanding and improving access to telehealth services, among many other proposals.
As additional needs and issues arise from agencies and stakeholders, the governor is committed to working with legislators to find bipartisan solutions. The governor’s office welcomes the opportunity to hear and consider any proposals that legislators have to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents, businesses and communities.
This package, among many other proposals, includes:
The Governor’s first COVID-19-related legislation was introduced last week as LRB-5920 and is available here for review. A brief explanation of LRB-5920 is available here. A brief explanation of the governor’s second round of proposed legislation announced today is available online (link).
WCMS563 Carter Court, Suite B, Kimberly, WI 54136Email: WaukeshaCMS@badgerbay.co