Record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases. Unprecedented workforce shortages. Persistent supply chain challenges.
These are only a few of the many issues our field is grappling with right now as the omicron variant continues to exert tremendous strain on our hospitals and health systems and the courageous caregivers who continue to treat patients and save lives every day.
The bottom line: Our hospitals need additional support and resources – including more help from the federal government – to confront the latest chapter in the COVID-19 crisis.
We are working with Congress and the Administration on multiple fronts to advocate for additional relief and lay the groundwork for including important hospital priorities as part of a must-pass legislative package next month that is tied to funding the federal government, as part of a possible supplemental funding package Congress intends to consider or other legislation.
Some of our key priorities include:
Distributing Remaining Provider Relief Fund Dollars and Replenishing the PRF. We continue to urge the Administration to distribute quickly the billions of dollars that are remaining in the PRF, as well as push for greater transparency in how the funds are being disbursed. At the same time, we know that the remaining dollars in the fund will not be sufficient to address the tremendous financial strain that the delta and omicron variants are causing. We will ask Congress to replenish the fund and disburse it expeditiously.
Addressing Workforce Challenges. We continue to focus on short-and-long-term solutions to address the workforce challenges facing our field. For example:
- This week we urged support for a letter led by two House lawmakers asking that federal agencies investigate reports of anticompetitive behavior from nurse-staffing agencies that is exacerbating the shortage of nurses and straining the health care system;
- Yesterday, we urged passage of the newly introduced Medical Student Education Authorization Act, which would help expand graduate education for physicians by focusing grants to institutions in states with the most severe shortages of primary care providers;
- We continue to advocate for passage of the Build Back Better Act, containing billions in funding we fought for to expand Medicare-funded physician residency slots and Pathway to Practice, which promotes physician diversity and improves access to physicians in communities dealing with sustained hardship;
- We collaborated with the National Academy of Medicine on the release this week of a new compendium highlighting tools and strategies to address issues related to health care workers’ burnout;
- In addition, an AHA Board-appointed task force will identify and activate efforts to rescue our current workforce and assure the future supply of needed health care professionals.
Extending Relief from Medicare Cuts, Providing More Time to Repay Medicare Payments. Just last month we worked to get Congress to provide critical relief by stopping the 2% Medicare sequester cuts for hospitals and physicians until April. The legislation also reduced the cut from 2% to 1% from April through the end of June. However, given the increased challenges confronting our field, we will need Congress to halt these cuts from going into effect during the next few months as it is the exact wrong time to take away necessary resources from our caregivers. In addition, we will ask Congress to give hospitals more time to repay payments received through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
Relief for 340B Hospitals. We will urge Congress to provide relief for any hospitals participating in the 340B Drug Savings Program that had to leave the program due to changes in their patient mix as a result of the pandemic.
Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll be laying out more details on these and other issues where we need immediate support and sharing those messages broadly.
And we’ll need your help. Watch for virtual advocacy days and other opportunities that you can get involved in to reinforce the urgent need to provide our caregivers and hospitals with the resources they need to care for patients, save lives, protect communities and continue to confront the greatest health care challenge of our lifetime.