In the second week of the Trump Administration, and the second month of the 115th Congress, health care issues have taken center stage like never before: repeal and replace (or repair) of the Affordable Care Act, “restructuring” Medicaid, “modernizing” Medicare…not to mention the health policy and funding issues sure to arise when the time comes to extend the debt limit, fund the government, reform the tax system, and extend the CHIP program.
It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Be certain, we have the ability to do just that. Whether it is redefining the hospital and transforming how we deliver care, or shaping the discussion on public policy issues, this is a unique time in our history.
This past week, the AHA Board of Trustees held its annual retreat to assess current challenges and future opportunities. They agreed that our message to policymakers must be clear:
- We must maintain coverage for all individuals currently receiving benefits.
- The Affordable Care Act should not be repealed without a simultaneous replacement guaranteeing adequate coverage. If that doesn’t occur, then the hospital and health system payment reductions for Medicare and Medicaid that were to be used to fund coverage expansions must be restored, so that we have the resources to help care for the increased number of uninsured.
- We support continued efforts to transform the delivery system toward fee-for-value using coordinated care and integrated delivery mechanisms, which are the preferred methods to improve care, achieve efficiencies and make care more affordable.
- We must enact regulatory relief to reduce the administrative burden on our caregivers, so that more resources can be devoted to patient care versus paperwork.
- Any Medicaid “restructuring” should focus on providing states with “flexibility” accompanied by safeguards that ensure sufficient funding to ensure adequate coverage. And expansion and non-expansion states must be treated equitably.
- Finally, we must work to prevent any further reductions in payments for hospital and health system services to ensure that our patients and communities continue to receive access to high-quality care.
We recognize that we have the responsibility to offer creative policy solutions to address many of these issues. Thanks to your input, we have developed specific recommendations to do just that, and to consider other issues as well—such as ensuring access to care in vulnerable communities, reducing the skyrocketing prices of pharmaceuticals, ensuring long-term sustainability of the Medicare program, and changing the approach used by the antitrust enforcement agencies. Stay tuned for additional information and resources that continue to provide a roadmap for shaping the future on all of these matters as policymakers in Washington begin the legislative and regulatory processes.
We are also launching a new Committee on Health Strategy and Innovation to examine the important transformational issues on the horizon, and to provide you with new tools and insights. First on their agenda: the issue of affordability and enhancing value.
Our vision is of a society of healthy communities, where every person can reach their highest potential for health. Health care policy may change quickly—but our dedication to our members and the patients and communities they serve never will. That’s a prediction I’m sure of.