On Tuesday, we wrapped up this year’s AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C. The highlights: A brand new venue … more than 1,200 attendees … and a great speaker line-up that included everyone from the Speaker of the House to the Senate Majority Leader, to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to the Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary, to the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, to historian Jon Meacham and General Colin Powell...not to mention key players in the media such as Chuck Todd, Judy Woodruff, Katty Kay and Robert Costa. And, we had Mike Allen of Axios host a great panel discussion involving two key members of Congress with very special insights: Michael Burgess from Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee – who is also a physician – and Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., the past president of the Universities of Wisconsin and Miami, and the longest serving HHS Secretary in history, who led the department under President Clinton.
We heard about the political lay of the land from leading policymakers and journalists … we dove into the emerging trends in our field and how we can shape the future … we honored leaders in health care delivery … and we celebrated AHA Board Chair Brian Gragnolati and the Board of Trustees for their leadership.
One of the most important takeaways from this year’s meeting: We have solid support on Capitol Hill and in the administration for policies to help hospitals and health systems care for patients. And they all want to hear from us because of what we do … what we represent … and the fact that our members are the experts when it comes to health care and serve as valuable resources to policymakers and their staffs.
Whether it was the issue of behavioral health, opioid addiction, or access to care – just to name a few – members of Congress and the administration showed they understand that public policy has a real impact on people and the health of the country … and that hospitals and health systems are vital to advancing health in America.
We were pleased to hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say she supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act (the ACA) to improve access … and “taki[ng] action to ease the upcoming Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts … to ensure hospitals have the resources they need to care for the most vulnerable.”
We were glad to hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell point out that “Medicare for All” isn’t all that it promises to be … and that the funding Congress passed last fall to address the opioid epidemic was just “a down payment.”
And we were excited to debut our new framework for improving health care in America: a pathway to Better Care for America (a BCA, if you will) that will improve access to care and ensure hospitals and health systems are always there for our patients.
Our Better Care for America framework is a better way to build and improve upon the existing public-private coverage framework that is already helping people access the care they need:
A better way would be continuing to expand Medicaid in non-expansion states – including providing 100 percent of the federal matching rate for the first three years for those additional states that expand coverage.
A better way would be stabilizing the insurance exchanges by restoring cost-sharing subsidies for low-income consumers … and implementing well-designed reinsurance mechanisms.
A better way would be increasing subsidies to more lower-income people wanting to purchase private coverage on the exchanges.
A better way would be providing adequate funding for efforts to help consumers enroll in health plans.
"Medicare for All" sounds like a good idea ... but we have a better way to meet today’s challenges, create a healthier tomorrow – and advance health in America.
Another key takeaway: Policymakers appreciate that, no matter what, our doors are always open to the people who depend on us – our patients. Seeing is believing, so here’s a great video showing just how important hospitals are to our communities.
This was a great annual meeting and I encourage you to check out the highlights here.
Thank you to all who joined us in Washington this week. And to those who couldn’t make it – we hope to see you next year!