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Legislation would solve issue with virtual visits

South Range Democratic Rep. Nick Milroy introduced legislation to allow out-of-state health workers to provide virtual care during the pandemic.

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Rep. Nick Milroy (Photo courtesy of Rep. Nick Milroy's office)
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After being struck by a minivan in a hit-and-run crash in late January while walking in Billings Park, John Dromeshauser, 50, knew it was going to take ongoing medical care to recover from a broken ankle, tibia and skull fractures, broken ribs and a concussion.

Even in a pandemic, seeing his orthopedist, neurologist and counselor wasn’t an issue until about a month ago, the South Superior man said. He could see his doctors in Duluth by way of virtual visits. Then about a month ago, Dromeshauser said the calls started coming in to cancel the virtual visits he’d arranged because doctors weren’t licensed to practice in Wisconsin.

“I’ve had all these appointments set up, doctors I’ve seen prior to the accident,” Dromeshauser said. “All of a sudden I have to go over the bridge and go to the hospital.”

In a pandemic, he said it’s not something he’s comfortable with because some people simply refuse to wear face coverings.

It’s a dilemma state Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, is hoping to solve with new legislation that would allow out-of-state licensed and former health care providers to practice in border communities in Wisconsin during a declared emergency.

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“Many residents of Northwestern Wisconsin who live near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border have struggled to receive necessary care during the COVID-19 pandemic because Minnesota health care providers have not always been authorized to see them,” said Milroy. “If passed, this bill would make health care more accessible during an emergency for residents near the border.”

Milroy said he learned about the issue from a nurse and Dromeshauser’s girlfriend.

“This new law authorized health care providers licensed in another state and former Wisconsin health care providers to receive a temporary credential from the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to practice in Wisconsin until 30 days after the end of Governor Evers’ Safer at Home Executive Order ended,” Milroy said of Act 185, passed in April by the Wisconsin Legislature to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most provisions of Evers’ Safer at Home Executive Order were struck down in May when legislative leadership challenged the extension of that order in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“The problem is that the temporary credentials expired while the pandemic emergency is ongoing,” Milroy said. “Wisconsinites receiving care from a temporarily credentialed doctor are now struggling to meet their continued health care needs.”

Under the bill, an individual who holds a valid, unexpired license in another state would be allowed to practice as a physician, physician assistant, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, psychologist, social worker, or other health care-related professional during an emergency. The same would be true for those who held a credential in Wisconsin within the last five years for one of those professions.

In addition, to practice under the bill, a health care provider must be unable to obtain a credential from DSPS or an attached examining board before providing services and must practice at an approved facility. A health care provider must apply to DSPS within 30 days of first practicing and must notify DSPS within 10 days of when they begin providing services.

“It is important that we learn from these experiences and make sure that going forward, Wisconsin residents are able to get the care they need from out-of-state providers and former health care providers when faced with an emergency,” Milroy said. “Public health emergencies are stressful enough without having to worry that nearby doctors won’t be able to provide care for you and your loved ones when needed the most. During difficult times, we must make sure health care is as accessible as possible for Wisconsin families. The health and safety of our communities have to be our top priority.”

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Dromeshauser said after having back surgery in June, he hopes the legislation Milroy introduced is accepted by the Wisconsin Legislature.

“In the process of healing I have to put my life at risk,” Dromeshauser said. “I was looking forward to those virtual visits.”

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, left, talks to Rep. Nick Milroy at an event at the Yellowjacket Union on the UW-Superior campus. Milroy introduced legislation to allow out-of-state medical workers to provide care to Wisconsin residents after temporary credentials expired following the governor's safer-at-home order was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

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