As we welcome a new year, this is a good time to examine the health care landscape ahead as we work to ensure Congress fully appreciates how hospitals and health systems need its support to continue delivering high-quality patient care to their constituents and communities.
While we secured some important victories and made progress on a number of key issues last year, care providers continue to face significant challenges on many fronts at once. These include extraordinary pressure on the workforce, caring for sicker and more medically complex patients, soaring costs of providing care coupled with significant government underpayment for care services, and an overwhelming regulatory burden, just to name a few. All of these factors combine to threaten access to care for patients.
Within 14 days, the first of two continuing resolutions that have funded the government since November will expire, leaving several particular issues front and center for us right now. Among our highest priorities: The continued moratorium on Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts and staving off harmful so-called site-neutral payment policies that don’t account for the differences in the care hospitals provide 24/7.
For months, we’ve been working hard to educate lawmakers about why these site-neutral payment reductions would reduce access to patient care. Visit our site-neutral webpage for tools and resources that you can use in your advocacy efforts with your lawmakers, and watch for an AHA Action Alert next week with more details on the current landscape.
The Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which the AHA is a founding member, has resumed a series of TV and digital ads urging Congress to reject funding cuts to hospital care and protect patients’ access to hospital services. The ads also highlight how corporate health insurers, which are some of the strongest proponents of site-neutral cuts, raise patients’ costs while denying care.
Add to the mix this year extending critical programs for rural communities, such as the low-volume adjustment and the Medicare-dependent hospital programs; making permanent telehealth and hospital at home provisions that have led to improvements in care; enacting federal protections for health care workers against violence and intimidation; and holding commercial health plans accountable for their behaviors that put further financial strain on hospitals and exacerbate workforce pressures, just to name a few.
It’s clear that we need a solid partnership from Washington to ensure America has strong hospitals – both in the short-term and long-term – so they can continue to serve our patients and communities as well as lead efforts to advance health in our nation.
With much of the national attention in 2024 focused on the November election, it is vitally important that our elected lawmakers and candidates for office hear from hospitals and health systems and understand the range and complexity of challenges that threaten their ability to support their communities and provide continued access to care.
The AHA has created tools and resources to aid hospitals’ and health systems’ participation in this important election. On our “We Care, We Vote” webpage, you will find updated content designed to help hospital leaders navigate interactions with congressional candidates, highlight advocacy priorities and encourage participation in the electoral process.
For example, we provide suggested questions to ask candidates about their views on health care issues, legal do's and don’ts, and a digital toolkit with sample messages hospital leaders can use to encourage their employees to register to vote.
You also can spread the word by sharing our materials with your government affairs and communications staff, leadership team and board, as well as any other staff who help mobilize community engagement within your hospital.
Control of the House and Senate, as well as the White House, are up in the air this election year and they are expected to be decided by close margins. It’s not too soon to talk with your lawmakers and candidates for office about how hospitals and health systems are irreplaceable cornerstones of their districts and states. As leaders of your facilities, you are important members of your communities, but you also are important constituents.
And continue to drive home the point that it’s imperative that lawmakers provide the federal support necessary so hospitals can succeed in their mission of saving lives, healing communities and advancing health for all.