Medigram, the Society’s electronic newsletter for physicians, features timely news, upcoming events, answers to frequently asked questions and all the information you need to know to make your practice run more efficiently. Topics include legislative updates, legal information, practice management information, government regulations, and much more. Published weekly, Medigram is delivered via email on Thursdays.

If you have a Medigram story idea or would like to offer feedback, please email us or call 866.442.3800.

End of State Legislative session sees flurry of bills
As the 2021-22 biennial state legislative session comes to an end early next month, legislative proposals are progressing through both the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate. Some bills will likely be approved by Governor Tony Evers and become law, while others seemed designed to prompt a Gov. Evers veto.

WisMed, AMA file amicus brief supporting local public health powers
Emphasizing the importance of empowering ground-level public health officials when rapidly-developing events threaten communities, the Wisconsin Medical Society (WisMed) and the American Medical Association (AMA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court February 22.

Vote for Society offices via WisMed Mobile
Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) Members can vote for the Society President-elect and Treasurer via the WisMed Mobile app.* According to the Society’s Constitution, Article V, the President-elect and Treasurer will be elected by the general membership.

Register for Society virtual Annual Meeting
Registration is open for the Wisconsin Medical Society’s 2022 Annual Meeting to be held virtually on Saturday April 9, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Why residents need disability protection
For medical residents or fellows, their biggest asset is their future ability to earn an income. Until it’s sustainable to lose earning power without consequence, it’s important to fully protect it. James Dahle, MD, of The White Coat Investor states, “Early in residency, buy as large of a high-quality, specialty-specific, own occupation, individual disability insurance policy as an agent is willing to sell you.”

Physician volunteers needed for Let's Talk About Pain Medicines workshops
Physician volunteers are needed for Let's Talk About Pain Medicines educational workshops in Brown, Eau Claire, Marathon, Milwaukee, Pierce and Waukesha counties. These workshops are organized through Wisconsin Health Literacy (WHL) with a grant from the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation.

End of State Legislative session sees flurry of bills

As the 2021-22 biennial state legislative session comes to an end early next month, legislative proposals are progressing through both the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate. Some bills will likely be approved by Governor Tony Evers and become law, while others seemed designed to prompt a Gov. Evers veto. Bills that fail to pass through both houses before the end of general session will expire.

Some bills of particular interest for the Wisconsin Medical Society (WisMed):

WisMed-supported bills

“Tobacco 21”
Assembly Bill 348 puts Wisconsin law in synch with federal law, raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes, tobacco or nicotine products from 18 to 21 years old. The State Assembly passed AB 348 February 22 on a voice vote; a large coalition including WisMed sent a memo to the full Assembly prior to the vote. Companion legislation (Senate Bill 355) is ready for a full State Senate vote; if that bill is scheduled for a full vote the reconciled proposal could make it to the Governor’s desk.

Making Harm/Threats to Health Care Workers a Felony
Current state law treats intentionally causing bodily harm (battery) to certain health care workers as a felony: harm to nurses, emergency care providers and emergency department workers currently prompts that enhanced level. Responding to troubling incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Bill 960 expands that enhanced penalty to battery against a health care professional, a staff member of a health care facility, or a family member of a health care professional/staff member. The bill also treats certain threats as felonious if the threat comes as a response to a health care worker doing their job in an official capacity or in response to something that happened at the health care facility. Following strong health care advocacy, the Assembly passed AB 960 on February 22 via voice vote; companion legislation is progressing in the State Senate.

Direct Primary Care
Legislation ensuring that direct primary care businesses would not be considered insurance plans passed the State Senate February 21 on a party-line vote. The 21-12 vote on Senate Bill 889 could signal trouble for the bill’s ultimate fate if it were to reach the Governor’s desk. Also hampering its chances: the Assembly version of the proposal has not received a committee hearing in that house, and it appears today’s (February 24) Assembly floor session may be the final one for the biennium.

Society-opposed bills

Kratom Legalization
A proposal (Assembly Bill 599) legalizing substances found in kratom – the leaf of a southeast Asia evergreen tree with opioid-like properties – was originally placed on the February 23 Assembly floor calendar. Medical and law enforcement groups have joined forces to oppose the bill (with memos you can read here and here), which would remove two substances found in kratom from Schedule I of the state’s Controlled Substances Act. The Assembly skipped over AB 599 during the February 23 session, signaling that the bill might not have the votes to prevail. The bill was still eligible to be brought up during today’s (February 24) Assembly session – but no action has been taken as of press time, with the Assembly still in session.

Natural Immunity in Lieu of Work Vaccination/Testing Requirements
One of many COVID-19 bills designed to undercut vaccination promotion, Assembly Bill 675 would allow employees to opt out of an employer’s vaccination/testing requirement if they can document “natural immunity” – in this bill’s case defined to mean having tested positive for COVID-19 any time after March 1, 2020 or a serology test showing the presence of naturally occurring antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 any time since March 1, 2020. Either attestation needs to be signed by a “health care provider,” which the bill defines to include physicians, nurses, chiropractors, physician assistants or pharmacists. The bill requires employers to inform current or prospective employees in writing of this option. This is the second time AB 675 has passed through the Assembly, after having been amended by the State Senate. Many organizations, including WisMed, have registered against the proposal; no organization publicly supports it. Gov. Evers is expected to veto the bill.

Contact WisMed Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information or with any questions on these or other bills.

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Rogers Behavioral Health

WisMed, AMA file amicus brief supporting local public health powers

Wisconsin Supreme Court

Emphasizing the importance of empowering ground-level public health officials when rapidly-developing events threaten communities, the Wisconsin Medical Society (WisMed) and the American Medical Association (AMA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court February 22. The case, Jeffrey Becker v. Dane County, centers on the “nondelegation” doctrine, or what duties can be constitutionally delegated to public officials, at the county level as allowed via state statute.

The suit challenges the ability of Dane County’s local health officer to issue restrictions or requirements responding to the COVID-19 pandemic without the Dane County Board of Supervisors affirmatively voting on each order. That Board passed an ordinance near the beginning of the pandemic making it a violation to disobey an order of the public health director designed to prevent, suppress or control communicable diseases. A suit was filed in Dane County Circuit Court in January 2020 challenging an order limiting businesses to half capacity, and the delegated powers overall. Dane County Judge Jacob Frost rejected the challenge; the Supreme Court agreed to take the appeal directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.  

The WisMed/AMA amicus brief focuses on how health officials at the local level are best able to respond to conditions in their area, and that because crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can evolve rapidly, it is reasonable that state law allows special powers during extraordinary periods where time is of the essence.

“Controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting the lives of vulnerable Wisconsinites requires a layered prevention strategy,” the brief reads. “And because the emergence of new variants and surges in case counts cause COVID-19 trends to change so quickly, that strategy must be nimble enough to account for new developments before transmission spirals out of control and overburdens the medical care system. Under these circumstances, the Legislature's purpose in authorizing local health officers – experts on the ground – to make real-time decisions about what measures are necessary to control communicable diseases such as COVID-19 is ascertainable.”

The AMA’s Litigation Center was instrumental in organizing the brief’s creation, with the national group Democracy Forward Foundation collaborating with the Madison firm Bell, Moore & Richter. The Dane County Medical Society asked WisMed to engage with the AMA’s Litigation Center to pursue the brief. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on March 8 in the State Capitol.

Contact WisMed Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information. 

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WisMed Financial - Meet your advisor

Vote for Society offices via WisMed Mobile

President-elect: Don Lee, MD
President-elect Nominee - Don Lee, MD

Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) Members can vote for the Society President-elect and Treasurer via the WisMed Mobile app.* According to the Society’s Constitution, Article V, the President-elect and Treasurer will be elected by the general membership.

The Nominating Committee of the Wisconsin Medical Society prepared a slate of nominees for Society offices during its January 21 meeting. The nominees, including those for American Medical Association (AMA) Delegates are as follows:

  • President-elect: Don Lee, MD
  • AMA Delegate 2023 and 2024: Barbara Hummel, MD
  • AMA Delegate 2023 and 2024: Tosha Wetterneck, MD
Treasurer: Mr. John Cook, CPA
Treasurer Nominee - John Cook, CPA

The Wisconsin Medical Society Board of Directors, as directed by the Society’s Bylaws, selected its nominee for Treasurer on January 22, 2022:

  • Treasurer: Mr. John Cook, CPA

The ballot for President-elect and Treasurer will be available until the close of business March 10. All Wisconsin Medical Society members are eligible to vote via WisMed Mobile.* The candidate materials are available for review on the ballot as well.

The Board of Directors will consider nominees for the AMA Delegates, Board of Director and Nominating Committee members at its meeting in April.

*If you haven’t downloaded WisMed Mobile app, you can do so here. For assistance, please contact membership@wismed.org or 800.762.8975.

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Register for Society virtual Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting - Virtual - April 9, 2022 - 9 a.m. to noon

Registration is open for the Wisconsin Medical Society’s 2022 Annual Meeting to be held virtually on Saturday April 9, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

Although a virtual meeting is not ideal, we are committed to a format centered around conversations between Society officers and members in a way that will be engaging, inclusive and provide insights into what is most relevant and needed by members. WisMed members can register via the events tab of the WisMed Mobile app or here.* Watch future issues of Medigram for a more detailed agenda.

Contact membership@wismed.org for questions or help registering.

*Please note that Zoom may require you to sign up for a free Zoom account before registering for the event. You will receive a confirmation email once your event registration is complete.

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Why residents need disability protection

For medical residents or fellows, their biggest asset is their future ability to earn an income. Until it’s sustainable to lose earning power without consequence, it’s important to fully protect it. James Dahle, MD, of The White Coat Investor states, “Early in residency, buy as large of a high-quality, specialty-specific, own occupation, individual disability insurance policy as an agent is willing to sell you.” But why do this as a resident or fellow, before the dramatic income increase of becoming an attending physician? Why not wait for an employer benefits group plan if applicable, and purchase supplemental personal disability insurance then? There are several reasons why waiting may not be the best financial plan.

Residents and fellows are entitled to a base amount of coverage without being required to provide proof of financial qualification. In addition, WisMed Assure works with insurers that provide discounts to many of the residency programs. Members of the Wisconsin Medical Society are eligible for even more discounts. These savings can add up to a monumental amount of money throughout one’s career.

Disability insurance protection increases in cost with age. It will become more expensive each year, and putting it in place early on locks in the price while it’s the most affordable. Also, purchasing a future increase option at this time allows the policyholder to increase their protection as their income increases, without the imposition of any additional medical underwriting.

Group disability insurance coverage is a wonderful benefit, and it’s almost always advisable to enroll for as much as allowed. However, there are often limitations. It may be capped at an amount insufficient to replace one’s total income if disabled. Portability is also a concern, since should one change employers or deviate career paths, the coverage will be lost. Almost always, group coverage contains offsets, where any benefits attained from other sources will decrease the benefits paid out by group coverage. A solid personal disability policy specially designed for physicians and health care professionals addresses these inherent risks.

So where should one obtain this vitally important coverage at the most affordable price? Only purchase personal disability insurance coverage through an independent agent who can offer plans from multiple companies and customize coverage for the policyholder. Avoid representatives who offer only one plan, and thereby have a conflict of interest.

WisMed Assure

WisMed Assure exists for your benefit and offers plans from the Big 5 insurance companies – with plans specifically designed for physicians. Reach out to us at 866.442.3800 or insurance@wismedassure.org and let us customize a plan for you. Take care of this urgent financial chore today.

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Physician volunteers needed for Let's Talk About Pain Medicines workshops

Physician volunteers are needed for Let's Talk About Pain Medicines educational workshops in Brown, Eau Claire, Marathon, Milwaukee, Pierce and Waukesha counties. These workshops are organized through Wisconsin Health Literacy (WHL) with a grant from the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation.

Participants will learn how to safely and effectively use prescription opioids while learning other pain treatments as an alternative to taking opioids. The project focuses on adults outside the health care setting, which complements the efforts of physicians and other health care workers in fighting the opioid crisis. Specifically, this intervention focuses on prevention, using physician-led educational workshops that will improve the health literacy of adults through improved understanding of pain treatment alternatives, new strategies for effective use of medication and better knowledge of how to reduce the likelihood of opioid misuse by family members or friends.

If you would like to volunteer or if you would like to learn more about this or other grants from the Foundation, please contact Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation Program Director, Elizabeth Ringle at elizabeth.ringle@wismed.org.

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