As congressional leaders continue to hammer out annual spending bills ahead of the Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 deadlines to fund various agencies, a number of important issues affecting hospitals and health systems are being considered.

Among AHA’s highest priorities: Preserving the 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. Enacting additional payment cuts to hospitals now would exacerbate current financial challenges they already are facing and jeopardize access to essential care and services for patients.

In Washington, we’ve been delivering these messages to lawmakers for months, and will push every lever we can for the next few weeks — or longer if another stopgap funding bill is needed — to ensure that funding cuts to patient care are not included in this legislative package.

How are we doing this? For starters, our team is meeting with lawmakers in Washington and supporting grassroots advocacy efforts by you and your teams back home.

Your voice is critical to make the final case to your lawmakers. While we’re providing the air cover, you can provide the ground game as you are the most effective and important advocate with your representatives and senators. This is a critical stretch as this could be one of the only chances for health care legislation to move until after the election.

We’re also bolstering our case with the release of new data, reports and resources, such as a new infographic highlighting how Medicare’s history of underpayment to hospitals hit record lows in 2022, leaving hospitals with nearly $100 billion in Medicare shortfalls. These materials emphasize why additional funding cuts would push many hospitals, especially those serving rural and underserved areas, to the brink.

In addition, we’re sharing our resources with media and educating them about these complicated issues, and working on solutions to keep providing high-quality patient care without cutting hospital services.

While we continue to make the case directly with lawmakers, the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care, of which the AHA is a founding member, has ramped up public messaging through a national TV and digital ad campaign urging Congress to reject funding cuts to hospitals and protect patient care. 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.

In all of our materials, including a letter we sent this week to House and Senate leaders, we are urging Congress to not expand site-neutral payment cuts to include essential drug administration services furnished in off-campus hospital outpatient departments, among other priorities. HOPDs provide care for Medicare patients who are more likely to be sicker and more medically complex than those treated at physicians’ offices, while also being held to stricter safety and regulatory requirements. This is especially true in rural communities, and additional Medicare funding cuts to these facilities will have a direct impact on the level of care and services available to at-risk patients in these areas.

Hospitals and health systems hold a unique and irreplaceable role in their communities and in the health of individuals and families. They promise compassionate care to anyone who comes through their doors, but they must have sufficient resources to deliver on that promise.

We need to keep delivering these messages to lawmakers. Legislators listen most closely to you because you live, work and, most importantly, vote in their districts and states. You make a real difference.

Please see our Action Alert this week, which provides more information and resources that you can use when talking to your elected officials. You also can share this link and encourage others to send a message directly to their lawmakers.

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