Stand up. Speak out. Be heard. The stakes for the future of health care are too high to do anything less. 

That was a key message for the approximately 1,000 health care leaders who attended the AHA’s 2024 Annual Membership Meeting, which wrapped up this week in Washington, D.C. (You can watch video highlights here and view coverage from the meeting here.)

The event is among the nation’s leading forums for providing health care executives opportunities to learn from top thought leaders in Washington; connect with colleagues from across the country who are leading efforts to transform the way care is delivered; and influence the political landscape as we advocate for policies to support patients, caregivers and communities.

This year, there was special focus on educating policymakers that our health care system is suffering from multiple chronic conditions. These include continued government underpayment, cyberattacks, workforce shortages, broken supply chains, access to behavioral health, and irresponsible behavior by corporate commercial health insurance companies, among others — that put access to services in serious jeopardy.

Many might add dysfunction in Congress to the list of chronic conditions, so it was heartening to hear senior members of both parties express bipartisan support for the unique and irreplaceable role that hospitals and health systems play in the communities they serve.

For example, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 2 ranking senators of their respective parties, shared broad agreement in their remarks on effective tactics health leaders can use to ensure our voices are heard. 

First, stay engaged. Keep up on the issues and do all you can to get people registered to vote. This is simply good citizenship, and we need more of it.

Second, advocating in person is powerful. This doesn’t mean only face-to-face in Washington, but opportunities to advocate for the support our field needs can present anywhere, at a town council meeting or in the lobby of your hospital. Be ready to share powerful stories of the impact of your work.

Third, explain problems but also be practical and bring solutions. 

Throughout the meeting, we asked hospital leaders to carry four key messages to Capitol Hill as they met with their elected representatives: 1) Reject funding cuts for hospital services and extend policies to ensure patients’ access to care; 2) Support and strengthen the health care workforce; 3) Hold corporate commercial insurers accountable for practices that deny, delay and disrupt care; and 4) Bolster support to enhance cybersecurity of hospitals and the entire health care system.

The AHA, working with our members and other stakeholders, has developed solutions to help achieve every one of these goals and provided you with some of the tools to have an impact.

Please use our advocacy resources to help you in conversations with your lawmakers. Also, please access our We Care, We Vote materials to use with elected officials and candidates running for office this year, as well as other resources to make sure our field’s voice is heard in the political process. 

Our work is unfinished, and we will face obstacles. But we also know that the teamwork, commitment and determination is there to meet the moment and overcome the challenges we face.

We will not waver from our mission of advancing health for all…step-by-step and brick-by-brick…because we care about the communities we serve. Our work together will stand the test of time in building a better future.

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