We Need to Stop Legislation that Would Jeopardize Access to Care
Yesterday marked the official end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. For more than three years, hospitals, health systems and front-line health care workers have worked tirelessly to care for patients, comfort families and protect communities. That dedication and passion for caring — whether it is taking care of the sick and injured or keeping people healthy — continues.
While so many have moved on from dealing with COVID-19, hospitals and health systems cannot. That’s because they continue to deal with its aftermath and aftershocks, including financial challenges; a surge in inflation and costs of providing care; workforce shortages; cracks in the supply chain; uncertain funding streams from government at every level; and inadequacies in our public health system.
To make matters worse, Congress is considering a series of bills that would exacerbate these existing challenges and could reduce access to care and services for patients and communities. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health May 17 is expected to mark up a series of problematic bills on issues including site-neutral payment policies, the 340B Drug Pricing Program and physician-owned hospitals.
Specifically, we continue to urge subcommittee members to reject site-neutral payment cuts that could force outpatient clinics to close or cut back on critical services, resulting in reduced patient access and job losses, especially in rural and other underserved communities. In addition, we are asking them to reject efforts that create significant new reporting requirements for 340B hospitals and oppose changes that would either expand the number of physician-owned hospitals or ease restrictions on the growth of existing facilities.
The AHA has been sounding the alarm on these proposals since they were unveiled. We testified at a subcommittee hearing last month. We’ve produced new reports demonstrating why these proposals are bad for patients and the hospitals that care for them. And the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which AHA is a founding member, launched a new TV and digital ad campaign urging Congress to reject proposals that would reduce access to care and services for Medicare patients.
While we have concerns with a number of bills that are expected to be marked up on Wednesday, we do support legislation the committee plans to mark up that would delay for two years cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospitals that are scheduled to begin Oct. 1. Hospitals care for a significant number of low-income, uninsured and Medicaid patients, and the Medicaid DSH program is critical to maintaining access to essential services for these individuals.
This week, we sent out another in a series of Action Alerts asking hospital and health system leaders with representatives on the Energy and Commerce Committee to contact their lawmakers and explain the real-world implications that all of these bills would have on access to care in their communities. We’ve also included links to a number of materials, including fact sheets, studies and other resources that can assist hospital leaders in conversations with their lawmakers.
After the subcommittee markup next week, there’s still a long way to go in the legislative process. That’s why it’s important for all hospital and health system leaders to continue to engage with their lawmakers and explain the significant challenges hospitals are experiencing right now and how any reductions to Medicare or Medicaid funding would reduce patients’ access to vital care and services. In addition, please consider joining us in Washington, D.C., on June 6 for an AHA Advocacy Day where we’ll provide the latest updates on these and other issues before delivering our message directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
While the COVID-19 public health emergency officially ended yesterday, let’s not forget the sacrifice, commitment and bravery that the nation’s health care workers have shown for the last three years. And let’s make sure hospitals and health systems have the resources to ensure they can be there for the next emergency, natural disaster or thousands of other critical services our nation relies on them for each and every day.