AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack yesterday called on the Senate to “reset the discussion” over health care policy by rejecting the House-passed American Health Care Act. Kicking off the AHA Annual Membership Meeting’s Federal Forum, Pollack reiterated the AHA’s concerns about the AHCA jeopardizing coverage for millions of needy Americans. “While it’s unclear what the next steps will be as it relates to repeal, replace and repair – and how it might be revised and revisited – we call on the Senate to reset the discussion,” he said. Despite today’s political uncertainty, Pollack said the rapidly changing health care environment “represents a new way and new dawn for our field. It goes to the issue of redefining the hospital – or ‘redefining the H’ – and building the hospital and health system of the future” – a system that ensures coverage for all, delivers high-value care, coordinates services, expands wellness and prevention programs, and engages patients and their families as partners in managing care. “Hospitals’ and health systems’ remarkable ability to manage change is what gives me great hope for the future,” he said.
AHA chairman highlights ‘three battles’ for hospitals to win for patients, communities
AHA Chairman Gene Woods on Sunday set three goals for the field: expand access and coverage; re-engage with communities outside hospitals’ traditional walls; and end disparities in care. In his investiture address at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting, Woods said those are “three battles that must be fought and won for not only the AHA, but for all of our patients and the people in the communities we serve.” The president and CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare System noted that his organization’s logo is the “tree of life” – a symbol for the preservation and regeneration of life – and that the Carolinas is known for getting its share of hurricanes. He drew an analogy between trees that weather those gale-force winds and the challenges facing the hospital and health system field. “Even though the branches of the tree that survives may reach the ground, and though it may bend and sway in the storm, it is not uprooted because it is firmly anchored,” Woods said. He said hospitals’ and health systems’ “deep roots have enabled us to withstand the storms of the past and will help us withstand the storms of the future. We must be flexible enough to adapt in the storm, while firmly rooted in our mission and our calling.”
Nickels discusses outlook for AHCA in Senate
Senate politics and procedures are likely to produce an "utterly different version" of the American Health Care Act than what passed the House last week, AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said yesterday, discussing the legislation's outlook at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in a session with former CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno, director of The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Republican senators, including those from Medicaid expansion states, are likely to play a critical role in drafting the next version of the bill, which currently includes $840 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program, Nickels said. Senate procedures also will require an updated score from the Congressional Budget Office, he noted. With respect to a potential Senate timeline, Nickels said Congress's July and August recess dates could serve as possible targets for a vote. Joining the discussion, Bill McInturff, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, said a perceived voter mandate to "repeal Obamacare" influenced House Republicans but that it's too soon to tell how much impact the final legislation will have on the mid-term elections.
FBI director encourages close collaboration to combat cyberattacks in health care
FBI Director James Comey yesterday encouraged hospital and health system leaders to work closely with the FBI on reporting cyberattacks. “We will be open and honest with you and treat you as what you are: victims,” Comey said at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting. He said collaboration between the hospital and health system field and law enforcement is key to combatting cyberattacks in health care. “We don’t want your patient records,” he said, but the “fingerprints of that digital intrusion.” Comey cited ransomware as the top cyber threat confronting the field, and said paying cyber criminals encourages hackers to continue using health care as a lucrative market. He urged AHA members to maintain backup systems to protect valuable data. He also encouraged hospitals and health systems to reach out and build relationships with their local FBI field office as they would with their local fire department, emphasizing how familiarity can aid in a quick response in the event of an incident.
Shulkin outlines priorities for VA
Citing progress that the Department of Veterans Affairs is making toward improving patient care, VA Secretary David Shulkin yesterday said the agency’s key priorities are to give veterans greater choices about where they can receive care, modernize the system, focus its resources more efficiently, improve the timeliness of the care veterans get and work to prevent suicides among veterans. Speaking before the AHA Annual Membership Meeting, Shulkin said that fewer than 120 veterans today wait more than 30 days to receive urgently needed care. The number stood at 57,000 in 2013. He also noted that President Trump recently signed legislation extending the Veterans Choice Program authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act until funds run out. The program extends services for veterans to go outside the VA medical system for care and allows them to visit local community hospitals, use telemedicine, and hire more doctors. Shulkin also noted the VA is the largest educator of health care professionals, training more than 120,000 every year. He said the VA has “no higher clinical priority” than to reduce the number of veteran suicides, which average 20 a day, a statistic he called a “national tragedy.”
Cassidy: Health legislation should lower premiums, fulfill ‘contract’ with voters
Americans deserve health care legislation that lowers premiums and allows for affordable, adequate coverage of preexisting conditions, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) yesterday told hospital leaders at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting. Cassidy, a critic of the bill passed by the House last week, said, “I think the AHCA frankly was written to set up tax reform, and all that money that would be used to pay for coverage instead is going to be used to pay down the bill for tax reform.” He said that revised Senate legislation should fulfill President Trump’s promise to continue coverage, lower premiums and protect preexisting conditions. “The average voter in my state, or any other state, when they heard lower cost, they weren’t thinking [in terms of] a CBO score, they were thinking of lower premiums,” he said. Cassidy urged the field to carry this message directly to Capitol Hill. “If they’re a Democrat ask them to look at the Patient Freedom Act,” said Cassidy. “For Republicans, you gotta push that we have to fulfill that contract that President Trump made with the American voter. If we can get the two to begin to speak, then we’re going to come up with something that’s not a Republican plan and not a Democratic plan, but an American plan that benefits our patients.”
Burgess outlines House health reform bill, other legislative priorities
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) yesterday told hospital and health system leaders that the American Health Care Act would give states the flexibility to tailor their medical programs to their most vulnerable residents. As the bill moves to the Senate, Burgess, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, said he welcomed ideas and input from the other side of the Capitol. He said Congress needs to replace the Affordable Care Act because the law “is having real trouble. It is affecting people adversely with the rising costs of premiums.” While Congress is focused on repealing and replacing the ACA, Burgess said other health care issues that merit attention this year include a five-year reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration user fee agreements for prescription drugs and medical devices, an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and possible action on legislation that would assign Department of Defense trauma surgeons to civilian trauma centers and support additional training for military surgeons.