Introduction of SB 688 & AB 720 to Create Wisconsin Military Medics & Corpsmen Program

Milwaukee, WI – Heroes for Healthcare is proud to announce the introduction of legislation to create the Military Medics & Corpsmen (Wis-MAC) Program. The bi-partisan legislation, championed by Senator Jacque and Representative Summerfield, was officially introduced in the Wisconsin Senate on Veterans Day, November 11, 2021. This legislation addresses a critical workforce issue by providing a pathway for returning military medics, corpsmen, and medical technicians to apply their skills gained in active service to healthcare settings in Wisconsin.


Currently, when medically-trained service members and veterans transition to civilian life, their military healthcare training and hands-on patient care experience do not easily translate into comparable practice requirements in civilian healthcare settings. As a result, many veterans and service members are left unemployed, underemployed, or leave the healthcare field altogether.

Healthcare shortages have only worsened throughout the pandemic, and Senate Bill 688 is one important tool to make sure that all Wisconsinites have the access to high quality care they need and deserve.

SB 688 will create a pathway to allow medical personnel to work under a qualified supervising clinician, while they work toward a civilian licensure in Wisconsin. This Bill could have an immediate positive affect on the shortage of h

ealthcare workers, and it makes Wisconsin an attractive state for veterans and service members with healthcare experience. This legislation is modeled after successful programs in both Virginia and Veteran’s Administration healthcare settings across the U.S.

Shawn Lerch, CEO, Sauk Prairie Healthcare stated. “The Military Medics & Corpsmen program is a proven and innovative model that matches the experience and skills of medics and corpsmen with critical workforce needs of our health systems. This program will ensure high quality and safe care continues to be provided throughout the state. I am proud, as a Navy veteran and as a Healthcare CEO, to be a strong supporter and partner with Heroes for Healthcare to bring this essential program to Wisconsin.”

The following organizations have expressed their support for SB 688 and will join with Heroes in advancing the bill this legislative session: County Veteran Service Officers Association of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Primary Healthcare Association of Wisconsin; Concordia University of Wisconsin Veterans Service Department; Rural Wisconsin Health

Cooperative; Wisconsin Hospital Association; American Legion Department of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce; Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians; Herzing University; Tomah Health; Heartland Home Health; and Center for Veterans Issues.

Heroes for Healthcare thanks Sen. Jacque and Rep. Summerfield for their leadership on SB 688, along with the additional 26 bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill. Heroes for Healthcare is a Milwaukee-based non-profit that is dedicated to being a resource for our military during their transition to civilian life to achieve gainful employment in healthcare.

National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives Charters Wisconsin Chapter

The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) is pleased to announce that it has chartered a new statewide chapter in Wisconsin.

The purpose of the NALHE Wisconsin Chapter is to provide a framework to bring together Latino/a/x and multicultural healthcare leaders and professionals, early careerists, students, local industry experts, community stakeholders, partners, sponsors, and affiliates as a group to meet, discuss, and influence factors which affect the representation of Latino/a/x and multicultural individuals in healthcare leadership roles in the State of Wisconsin, and to foster greater participation in the advancement of diversity, inclusion and health equity initiatives.

The Chapter’s goals are to:

  • Promote the Wisconsin Chapter
  • Increase membership
  • Create and promote programming and events that align, promote, or further our mission and goals
  • Create networking opportunities for current and prospective members
  • Partner with sister organizations, such as ACHE and NAHSE
  • Partner with local colleges/universities and assist with the development of student NAHLE Chapters
  • Promote the Annual Summit
  • Procure Sponsorship for Chapter sustainability

NALHE Wisconsin is led by:

  • Andres E. Gonzalez, Co-Founder/President
    •  Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Alexandra Urrutia-Comas, Co-Founder/President-Elect
    • Vice President, Operations, Aurora Sinai Medical Center
  • Catarina Colón, Co-Founder/Secretary
    • Associate, Husch Blackwell
  • Yvonne Castañeda Renick, Co-Founder/Secretary
    • Cardiology Clinic Manager, Herma Heart Institute

“NAHLE’s overarching goal is to create a future workforce of highly talented Latino/Latina healthcare executives to meet the challenge of delivering and improving healthcare in our diverse communities, and our new chapter in Wisconsin is another step forward towards achieving that goal,” said Colón.


Provided by: Husch Blackwell

A Lack of Density Does Not Equal a Lack of Need: How Rural Health Has Largely Gone Overlooked

Shared by: EUA

A Lack of Density Does Not Equal a Lack of Need: How Rural Health Has Largely Gone Overlooked Banner Image

In the Fall of 2018, one of my best friends proposed we embark on the ultimate weekend. One of his corporate partners invited him to a private event at Lambeau Field that included drinks, dinner and a tour with Packer Legend LeRoy Butler; following we made the roughly 70-mile trip to my family’s Northwoods cabin to fish before returning to Green Bay for the game on Sunday. The event at Lambeau was incredible, but it was the next morning that I remember the most. After breakfast, my friend calmly asked me where the nearest hospital was. He was experiencing chest pain and the closest hospital was nearly 45 minutes away. Knowing that calling an ambulance to our remote area would take considerable time, I chose to drive him to a rural hospital I knew was operated by a larger system with a renowned cardiology center. Thankfully, we arrived at the rural hospital and he began receiving treatment in time and transferred to the larger center to have a stent inserted into his 95% blocked artery. The following day, we watched the game from my living room instead of Lambeau Field.

I’ve had the privilege of delivering architecture and planning services to the Healthcare industry for the past 25 years in a variety of communities. In my personal life as well as my career, I have witnessed the impact different payment models can have on communities and developed a passion for understanding how the built environment can connect the delivery of care to diverse populations, while being financially sustainable, efficient and effective. Accessibility, adequacy and affordability of healthcare continue to be three primary concerns for Americans.[1] Having worked for facilities in rural and urban areas, I’ve noticed the disparity of the various payment models regulated by Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as the impact the Affordable Care Act has had on both demographics. Though the 2010 legislation has come with challenges for all healthcare providers, I’ve observed that rural communities have an even greater uphill battle that is often not considered. Factors such as longer travel distances, difficulties in attracting medical talent at all levels and various socio-economic realities present real barriers for rural health facilities to strike the balance between delivering appropriate services to their unique populations, while also being financially sustainable.

To meet the needs of this rural population, this provider is undergoing a phased approach of first
expanding a clinic with an ED, and then expanding to include inpatient to make a full-scale rural hospital.

An Alarming Trend in Rural Health
According to the National Health Council, rural areas cover over 90 percent of the nation’s land area but contain somewhere around 20% percent of the total population (about 60 million).[2] This underserved and remote population has gone unnoticed for far too long. The challenges for rural health have been pretty much the same for many years with realities like higher poverty rates, large numbers of uninsured people and older adults with chronic health problems, in addition to heightened exposure to environmental hazards. Despite enhanced payment models for some rural hospitals over the last 20 years, in a February 24, 2020 article [3] cited that 120 facilities have closed in the 10 years prior, accounting for 7% of the 1,844 rural hospitals at that time.[4] Forbes also claimed that 1 in 4 rural hospitals were at risk of closure—an especially shocking number considering this was prior to the pandemic. Fortunately, this alarming trend has started to drive increased attention from policy makers and advocates in recent years. The article also cited that 120 facilities have closed in the 10 years prior, accounting for 7% of the 1,844 rural hospitals at that time. Forbes claimed that 1 in 4 rural hospitals were at risk of closure—an especially shocking number considering this was prior to the pandemic. Fortunately, this alarming trend has started to drive increased attention from policy makers and advocates in recent years—but not enough yet.

To demonstrate the disparity in attention between communities, we can look to the COVID-19 pandemic as a recent example. Since the beginning of COVID, health reform conversations and data on the effects of this health emergency have been primary focused on urban areas. However, a recent study on rural health in the Western states confirms the importance of increased focus on rural healthcare facilities.[5] The research indicates that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural populations have been severe, with significant negative impacts on unemployment, overall life satisfaction, mental health, and economic outlook, and that rural recovery policies risk being informed by anecdotal or urban-centric information.

Legislative Measures for Rural Health
Although far from receiving the attention and resources needed, there has been some traction in congress for improving rural health. The Rural Emergency Acute Care Act (REACH) has been around in various forms since 2015 in an attempt to provide relief, but it did not address two important areas: reimbursement around telehealth and the promotion of partnerships between rural hospitals and their closest larger health systems. So, it ended up serving as more of a springboard than a solution.

On December 21, 2020, legislation on year-end COVID-19 relief [6] was approved by Congress, establishing Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs) as a new Medicare provider type effective January 1, 2023. REHs—defined as providers that furnish certain outpatient hospital services in rural areas, including emergency department services—will be reimbursed at a rate 5% higher than the otherwise-applicable payment under the Medicare Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS). This enhanced reimbursement will undoubtedly provide major financial relief for many struggling hospitals.

Facilities wanting to enroll as REHs will need to meet certain requirements and conditions placed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to the act, REHs are required to:

  • Not provide acute care inpatient services (beds);
  • Not exceed an annual per patient length of stay of 24 hours;
  • Have a transfer agreement in place with a Level I or II trauma center;
  • Maintain a staffed emergency department, including staffing 24/7 by a physician, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or physician assistant;
  • Meet CAH-equivalent Conditions of Participation (COPs) for emergency services;
  • Meet applicable state licensing requirements.

At the time of this writing, the US Senate has just passed the American Rescue Plan [7]. The Senate version provides $8.5 billion for rural hospitals and facilities for healthcare-related expenses and lost revenues attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is another positive sign the federal government is taking action to help our rural population and healthcare providers.

To minimize operating costs, this new construction rural hospital incorporated a geothermal system
to achieve payback in less than five years.

What Will the Future Hold for Rural Health
There are still a lot of open questions and the next two years will surely be filled with lively discussion and debate as CMS digs deeper into detailing future rulemaking and guidance while rural communities grapple with potential changes to their local healthcare system. Questions will be raised, such as: how will local jobs be affected? Will people adapt to only receiving primary and emergency care close to home with travel required for surgery and other complex procedures? With more flexible work models and the cost of living in urban areas rising, will younger populations move to rural areas post-pandemic, thereby increasing the need for resources? Will hospitals that recently closed be able to reopen as REHs? Rural communities and healthcare providers will need to have a broader dialog surrounding these issues soon.

The idea of bed-less hospitals may seem unconventional but has been around for years. One of my hospital clients in Maryland underwent a pilot program to relocate and convert an outdated hospital into a bed-less Freestanding Medical Facility (FMF), given its proximity to another licensed bed facility. There was considerable concern in the community that they were losing their hospital and access to comprehensive care, while absorbing the additional costs associated with an ambulance ride should they need to be transferred after stabilization. Some speculated that people might make the longer drive to a hospital with beds at the risk of not arriving in time to be kept alive. The facts in this case were just the opposite. The project data proved that residents would get better care and at a better price point than if they had kept their original facility—and that was without an enhanced reimbursement. Rural America is finally getting some of the financial relief and attention it has needed for so long, but it still has a long way to go. Rural Emergency Hospitals, like the one that saved my friend’s life, are a viable option for many communities. Hopefully after January 1, 2023, even more lives will be saved as more facilities are able to meet their populations’ healthcare needs and remain fiscally healthy themselves.

Originally Published in CREJ Health Care & Senior Housing Quarterly


[1] National Health Council, Accessibility, Adequacy & Affordability of Health Care for Patients During & After the COVID-19 Emergency., April 16, 2020.
[2] National Health Council, Accessibility, Adequacy & Affordability of Health Care for Patients During & After the COVID-19 Emergency., April 16, 2020.
[3] Clary Estes. “1 in 4 Rural Hospitals Are at Risk of Closure and the Problem Is Getting Worse.” Forbes., February 4, 2020.
[4] Clary Estes. “1 in 4 Rural Hospitals Are at Risk of Closure and the Problem Is Getting Worse.” Forbes., February 4, 2020.
[5] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). “Impacts of the COVID-19 on Rural America.” Edited by Douglas S. Massey, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, and approved November 25, 2020.
[6] Emily J. Cook, Sandra M. DiVarco, Caroline Reigart. “Congress Establishes New Medicare Provider Category for Reimbursement for Rural Emergency Hospitals.” The National Law Review. March 22, 2021, Volume XI, Number 81. January 5, 2021.
[7] McGuireWoods, LLP. “U.S. Senate Passes American Rescue Plan – 10 Key Updates for Healthcare Providers.” March 9, 2021.


Ed Anderson, MBA, EDAC
Colorado Real Estate Journal Health Care & Senior Living Quarterly

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