As we’ve seen from recent media reports, Congress — and especially the House right now — continues to struggle to put together a plan to keep the government funded and avoid a potential shutdown that few want to see.
Political drama aside, however, the legislative process will churn on this month on both sides of Capitol Hill with regard to two key issues of extreme importance to our field. And it is critical that our voice is heard loud and clear.
Whether Congress keeps the government funded with a stopgap funding measure or a longer-term budget bill, the final package is likely to provide the vehicle for attracting impactful provisions on Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) reductions, as well as harmful site-neutral provisions.
On the first point, we strongly support a provision to suspend for two years the Medicaid DSH reductions scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, sparing hospitals and health systems billions in payment reductions.
At the same time, it is extremely important that proposed site-neutral provisions not be part of any final legislative funding package. Right now, we are urging House leaders to reject a provision that would permanently reduce payments for drug administration services in off-campus hospital outpatient departments.
We continue to drive home the message that all sites of care are not created equal. We cannot do away with a payment differential that is appropriate for services provided in HOPDs 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.
We’re delivering these messages to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, running advertisements, including in key congressional districts, and continuing to influence the discussion through thought leadership pieces and other efforts. In addition, the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which the AHA is a founding member, is running a TV and digital ad campaign to reinforce these messages.
The good news is we still have time to influence the debate and make lawmakers understand the real-world ramifications these misguided policies would have for their constituents. And the most effective way to do that is for lawmakers to hear that story directly from patients, hospital leaders and community members in their districts and states.
These are real consequences that will affect real people, particularly in rural and low-income communities. Please talk with your representative and senators and share with them how these proposals would reduce access to patient care and vital services in the communities they represent.
Remind them of the patients your hospital sees and serves every day, people who count on their hospital to be there, ready to care. Remind them that your hospital is a community cornerstone and the only provider of health care available 24/7 to all who need help. And remind them — as we will continue to do from our end in Washington — that the steps Congress takes now to support our ability to care for patients is a direct investment in advancing health for all.