Representative Van Orden hears concerns from hospital leaders

Feb 28, 2024

Richland Center, WI – U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin’s 3rd District visited The Richland Hospital and Clinics (TRHC) on Wednesday to meet with hospital leaders and staff. The visit was prompted, in part, by the recently announced closures of two health care facilities in Wisconsin: St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls and Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire. Both hospitals were operated by Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS), located in Illinois.

Van Orden inquired about the status of TRHC, citing the recent decision to step back from plans to build a new facility. “We can’t help if we don’t know what you need,” Van Orden reminded those present. CEO Bruce Roesler said the organization was in a comparatively healthy financial position, but noted that the challenges of recruiting staff and relying on higher-paid traveling nurses have hurt the hospital’s bottom line.

Hospital board members, staff, and leaders took advantage of the opportunity to describe some of the legislative and regulatory issues that have the biggest impact on the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Roesler emphasized the importance of TRHC’s status as a critical access hospital, a designation that ensures better reimbursements from Medicare. While the status is beneficial to the hospital, it also includes some stipulations that Roesler said could be changed to better utilize the hospital’s resources and allow the organization to care for sicker patients.

Anissa Koch, RN, spoke emotionally about the impacts that the restrictive network coverage and prior authorization requirements of Medicare Advantage plans can have. She stated that the team spends hours negotiating with insurance companies to get essential services covered for patients, sometimes unsuccessfully. On other occasions, the hospital is not reimbursed completely for care it provides.

Chas Burnley, chief nursing officer, emphasized the importance of the 340B program, a federal program that provides financial help to hospitals that serve vulnerable and low-income populations. Rep. Van Orden stated he understood the importance of lowering drug prices for all Americans.

Jon Hoelter, VP of federal and state regulations with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, provided details on programs like these and their impact on rural health facilities. Rep. Van Orden asked Hoelter to send his office additional information, so they could better understand how to provide support.

In closing, Roesler thanked Rep. Van Orden for his visit and looked toward the future. “Our organization has been providing care for our community for 100 years,” Roesler stated, “and we are counting on continued advocacy from our representatives to help us provide care for the next 100 years.”

The Richland Hospital and Clinics is a nationally awarded health care facility dedicated to caring, educating, and healing. Providing compassionate care for nearly 100 years to residents of the greater Richland County area, TRHC operates an independent, integrated group medical practice in three locations, including rural health clinics in Spring Green and Muscoda and a critical access hospital at its primary location in Richland Center, WI.