With only 11 days that the House and Senate are in session together before the fiscal year concludes, much of the attention in Washington is on how Congress will fund the government and whether there will be a government shutdown.
While those discussions take place, we expect both chambers to continue their work on health care legislation, including bills that would enact billions of dollars in so-called site-neutral payment cuts and other policies that would reduce payments for services provided to patients by hospital outpatient departments.
Just this week Republican leaders from three House committees – Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and the Workforce – released details of a combined bill that would result in a major cut for HOPDs that provide essential drug administration services, including for vulnerable cancer patients, who may require a higher level of care as they receive their essential treatments.
Our message: These so-called site-neutral proposals would reduce patient access to vital health care services, particularly in rural and other underserved communities. We cannot do away with a payment differential that is appropriate for services provided in hospital outpatient departments that care for everyone, maintain emergency stand-by services, take care of more complicated cases and have to meet tougher regulatory requirements than other sites of care.
At the same time, we are working to provide relief from the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payment reductions that expire at the end of September, protect the 340B drug pricing program and ensure that Congress understands the financial hardships of hospitals and health systems as we work to care for communities.
Making the Case with Your Legislators and Sept. 13 Advocacy Day
While Congress continues to discuss various site-neutral payment proposals, it’s more important than ever that they understand why these provisions are misguided and the negative effects they would have on care available in their local communities.
We’ve been meeting with lawmakers to help them understand this point and have provided a number of resources to assist hospital leaders and community members in conversations with their legislators. These include fact sheets with data analysis providing national and state impact for various site-neutral proposals, studies, talking points and infographics.
In addition, we will host a Sept. 13 virtual advocacy day for AHA members where we’ll provide the latest intelligence from Capitol Hill and share key messages that can be used in ongoing advocacy efforts.
AHA and Coalition Ads Providing the Air Cover
While we are making the case directly to lawmakers, we’re also running a number of ads to reinforce the message. The AHA has a number of advertisements in key publications targeted to policymakers, and we’re running digital ads focused on key legislators.
In addition, the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which the AHA is a founding member, this week launched a new TV ad urging Congress to reject reductions that would jeopardize access to quality care for patients across the country, especially in underserved communities.
Keeping up the Pressure
While some may look to attach site-neutral provisions to a must-pass funding bill before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, Congress may very well kick the can down the road further in the year with a "continuing resolution" to keep the government operating. That still provides an opportunity for a big end-of-year package where these policies could be included.
We’ll keep up the momentum to push back on these flawed proposals and make sure you are informed along the way.
Let’s keep up the pressure to ensure our caregivers have the resources they need to do what they do best – care for patients and advance health in communities.