Congress has headed home for its traditional August recess. That tradition began, by the way, as a sensible concession to Washington, D.C.’s steamy summer climate, long before central air conditioning came to Capitol Hill in 1938.

You can’t blame our elected officials for wanting to escape the high temperatures for a spell, but right now we must keep another kind of heat turned up around the significant continuing challenges that can impact access to care.

Like individuals and families across America, hospitals and health systems are grappling with the difficult problems of high inflation and ongoing effects of the pandemic. All of our organizations face significant increases in costs: from workforce shortages, rising drug prices, and equipment and supplies (including food and energy costs) that threaten financial stability and the ability to provide access to high-quality health care services.

At the same time, we must address supply chain shortages, manage a backlog in deferred care and navigate government underpayment, a critical concern for the majority of hospitals and health systems that depend on fixed payments from Medicare and Medicaid.

More than ever, federal lawmakers must understand the challenges hospitals and health systems face and what’s at stake in terms of access to care. That is why the AHA is urging all members to engage with their elected officials during the August recess — and through the remainder of the year — and make important points about the financial struggles that jeopardize access to care.

Hospitals face crushing financial challenges. The financial support provided since the onset of the pandemic was deeply appreciated and a real lifeline for so many organizations. However, it hardly kept hospitals whole in terms of the costs necessary to prepare for and care for COVID-19 patients and protect communities.

Moreover, that targeted support does not — and wasn’t really intended — to assist with the critical task of repairing and rebuilding our health care system to maintain essential public services for today and tomorrow and create a better health system for the future.

There are a number of steps federal lawmakers can take to help alleviate the financial pressures hospitals and health systems face. These include extending or making permanent some public health emergency waivers and other flexibilities that have supported telehealth and hospital-at-home programs; preventing the Statutory PAYGO sequester that would result in massive cuts to hospital providers in fee-for-service Medicare; and passing legislation to hold commercial health plans accountable for such practices as abusive payment delays and denials, to name a few.

We’ll keep making the case for prompt action in Washington, D.C., but we need your reinforcement back home. Your legislators listen to you because you live, work and provide care to their communities.

During the next few weeks and through the fall, we strongly urge you to:

  1. Contact your lawmakers to arrange conversations about your hospital’s financial reality and the impact on patients.
  2. Invite them to visit your hospital. Talk about what challenges you and your team are facing, along with the importance of continuing to provide high-quality care for your community.
  3. Tell your story about hospitals’ fragile financial health and its effect on access to care.

To support your efforts, AHA offers a regularly updated webpage with resources and additional information on the issues that most impact hospitals.

Thank you for telling your story on behalf of the patients and communities you serve…and thank you for all you do to advance health in America.

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