This December, we find ourselves in an increasingly familiar place: Congress is rushing to pass end-of-year legislation before leaving Washington for the holidays. They’re considering a number of hospital and health system issues, including addressing surprise medical bills, further delaying the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) cuts, and potentially reducing payments for hospital services through site-neutral adjustments.

I’ll cut to the chase: Your representative and senators need to hear from you on these issues, and Monday’s AHA Action Alert will help you in your conversations with them. 

Here’s where our field stands:

For surprise medical billing, please urge your lawmakers to protect patients from surprise bills and reject rate-setting. Patients should be protected when they have unexpected gaps in insurance coverage or emergencies, and providers and insurers need to be able to negotiate payment rates for services provided. Please urge your lawmakers to reject unwarranted government intrusion and abandon provisions that would lead to narrower provider networks with fewer choices for patients … and further limit access to care in rural and other vulnerable communities. Additionally, Congress needs to reject provisions not related to surprise billing, including unworkable proposals and policies that impede provider and health plan contracting. 

On Medicaid DSH, urge Congress to delay the billions in cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 21 and not cut hospital payments to offset the cost of the delay. The DSH program provides essential financial assistance to hospitals that care for our most vulnerable — children, the poor, the disabled and the elderly. 

Finally, urge your lawmakers to preserve payments for legitimate differences between care sites and reject cuts to hospital care. Congress shouldn’t cut hospital care payments to pay for other policy proposals, and they should reject so-called “site-neutral payment policies” under which proposed payments for services provided in hospital outpatient departments don’t distinguish between the level of care there versus in other settings. 

When there’s an issue — or several issues — before Congress that deal with our field and your representative and senators don’t hear from you, they’re going to think you’ve given them the green light to do whatever they choose. Your voice matters. Make sure they know where you — and your community — stand. 

Thank you for advocating on behalf of your patients and our field, and thank you for working so hard to advance health in America. 

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