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Committee OK's Seemeyer Appointment Seemeyer: Pullback of Federal Regulations Could Benefit LTC

Wednesday, February 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sarah Bass
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The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services this week voted 5-0 to recommend the confirmation of Linda Seemeyer as Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary.

At the confirmation hearing on Thursday, Seemeyer   
said her priorities as secretary will be:   
  • Containing costs in the Medicaid program while maintaining high quality of care. Medicaid serves more than 1 million people in Wisconsin and has a $9.5 billion annual budget, Seemeyer said.
  • Supporting Gov. Walker's priority of whenever possible moving people from dependence to independence, such as Walker's proposal to require employment for certain FoodShare recipients.
  • Supporting evidence-based practices.
  • Maximizing investment in mental health services through the Comprehensive Community Services program.
  • Working cohesively to tackle the opioid abuse crisis.
  • Maximizing tax dollars by providing services in the most efficient manner possible.
Seemeyer also acknowledged her predecessor Kitty Rhoades, former DHS Secretary who died suddenly last summer, and the good work she did at DHS, particularly with addressing dementia issues statewide. Seemeyer has been serving in this post since August but has not yet been confirmed the by Legislature, since that body was between legislative sessions at the time of the appointment. The appointment still needs to be approved by the full Senate and Assembly.

The committee chair, Sen. Leah Vukmir, asked Seemeyer what the change of federal administration might mean for DHS. If feds agree to giving block grant funding to states and give them more control in programs such as Medicaid, it could give Wisconsin the opportunity to make some changes that mimic the private sector, such as health care assessment and managing populations that have complex needs, Seemeyer said. Seemeyer said the federal government also has a lot of regulations that regulate nursing homes and care facilities that don't always makes the best sense. For instance, she said, in the community-based setting rule, if you have a nursing home on a property, you cannot have an assisted living facility or community-based residential facility (CBRF) on the same property and collect Medicaid because the nursing home makes it an institutional setting - a regulation that doesn't work for the population that wants to age in place.

Committee member Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said that several changes to Family Care/IRIS were included in the last budget, which upset stakeholders and dominated Joint Finance Committee budget discussions. Erpenbach asked Seemeyer that should any future Family Care/IRIS changes be proposed that stakeholders be consulted in advance of any proposal release. Seemeyer reassured Sen. Erpenbach that she would do her best to do that and talk to stakeholders in advance. 

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