When the next Congress is sworn in this January, it will have a different look and tone. But the American Hospital Association’s resolve on behalf of our nation’s hospitals remains unchanged.
The shift in the Senate does not alter our advocacy agenda, which has gained strong bipartisan support in both chambers. Specifically, we’ll continue pushing for action on issues like reining in overly zealous recovery audit contractors; reducing cuts to the Medicare disproportionate share hospital program; fixing the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program; extending flexibility for hospitals implementing electronic health records; halting regulatory policies that impose serious burdens on hospitals; and extending vital rural programs like the low-volume adjustment and Medicare-dependent hospital program.
And we will continue to vigorously oppose any potential cuts in funding for hospital services. Since 2010, hospital payments have been slashed by more than $120 billion. Hospitals simply cannot continue to do more with less; particularly as they face new and emerging challenges like Ebola.
The lame-duck Congress will return Nov. 12. First and foremost on the agenda is funding the government past Dec. 11 and approving new funds to fight Ebola. President Obama yesterday sent Congress an emergency funding request seeking $6.18 billion to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, enhance domestic preparedness, and speed the development of vaccines and other potential treatments for the disease. The majority of the funding will go toward containing the outbreak at its source. But according to the White House, the request includes $2.43 billion to support the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies, as well as state and local health department preparedness. Some of those funds will go toward “fortifying domestic health care systems by supporting more than 50 Ebola Treatment Centers and equipment and training at hospitals” across the country, while some will be used to procure personal protective equipment for the Strategic National Stockpile.
We will work with Congress to ensure that adequate funding is allotted for hospital preparedness and that every community is well-protected.
Rick Pollack is executive vice president of the American Hospital Association.