Hospital and health system leaders from across the country are coming to Washington, D.C., for the AHA Annual Membership Meeting, May 1-4, and to advance hospitals’ advocacy agenda on Capitol Hill.

Special sessions and executive briefings at the annual meeting will examine what it means to be a hospital in a rapidly transforming health care environment. And they will illustrate how hospital leaders are engaging patients and consumers in this transformation. 

That message needs to be delivered on Capitol Hill, the AHA says. In meetings on the Hill, the association encourages hospital and health system leaders to put into focus how much the field is improving quality, providing better-coordinated care and working to achieve good health in the communities it serves.

Hospital and health system leaders will urge Congress to support those efforts by passing legislation that helps ensure patients’ access to care and removes outdated regulations and administrative red tape that get in the way of providing better care.

 

Advocacy messages. Among hospitals’ top concerns is how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will craft regulations to carry out Section 603 of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act. The section implements the budget legislation’s site-neutral payments for off-campus hospital outpatient departments, or HOPDs, which will result in a reduction in reimbursement for certain HOPD services. 

Hospitals will ask for congressional support in seeking flexible HOPD regulations that do not threaten patients’ access to care. Among other concerns, hospitals want CMS to continue to consider all items and services provided in the same facility as a dedicated emergency department (DED) as part of that facility, and so excluded from the budget law’s site-neutral payment reductions, and that relocating, rebuilding or acquiring a grandfathered DED in the future should not trigger the law’s site-neutral payment reductions.

And hospitals will urge the Senate to pass the Standard Mergers and Acquisitions Review Through Equal Rules – or SMARTER Act, S. 2102. The legislation would align the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) merger review with that of the Department of Justice (DOJ) by eliminating the FTC’s ability to use its own administrative tribunal to challenge a merger – it would have to go to court just like DOJ. The House in March passed the bill.

 

Barriers to better care. The AHA contends that eliminating unnecessary barriers to care is critical to steady, continuing progress in achieving better health for communities, better care and care experience for patients and better health care value. Hospital and health system leaders will call on Congress to:

• Create an anti-kickback safe harbor for clinical integration programs and refocusing the “Stark” law on its original intent – barring physicians from referring patients to facilities in which they have an ownership interest,

• Pass the Critical Access Relief Act, H.R. 169/S.258, which would remove the 96-hour physician certification requirement as a condition of payment for critical access hospitals (CAH),

• Support legislation to permanently adopt a default standard of “general supervision” for outpatient therapeutic services, especially for CAHs and small rural hospitals, including the Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services Act, H.R. 1611/S. 257, and

• Pass the Establishing Beneficiary Equity in the Hospital Readmission Program Act, H.R. 1343/S. 688, which would adjust Medicare’s readmissions reduction program to account for certain sociodemographic factors that can increase a patient’s risk of readmission.