I don't envy the large class of newly elected lawmakers in Congress. After the confetti stops flying and the yard signs come down, it must be daunting to wade into the morass of complex issues they will need to understand and ultimately vote on—publicly and for the record. Think about the breadth and significance of legislation they will consider, from taxes to trade, from immigration to Afghanistan, amid a changing leadership structure. Then there is the inescapable challenge of dealing with the deficit. Consider that about 30 fresh faces in the House and Senate never before have been elected to any public office.
Because it is a cornerstone not only of communities, but also of the economy, health care is certain to be a top priority in the legislative learning curve for every freshman in Congress. For some, terms like RAC, PPS and HIT are still so much alphabet soup. For others, including about a half-dozen newly elected physicians, health care already is a passion. But all will have to get up-to-speed quickly in order to vote knowledgeably in the months ahead.
Helping lawmakers do just that is one of the most important jobs of the AHA and its members as advocates for the health care needs of every American. We always have worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle for the simple reason that health care is everybody's business. Every member of the community relies on the health care system to be there when they are born, when they die, and at every moment in between with the right care, in the right setting, at the right time. And with jobs in short supply across the country, hospitals and other health care facilities also are among the largest employers in virtually every congressional district.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, goes the proverb. The American Hospital Association will be incredibly busy in the months ahead, informing the health care debates that surely are to come, and we need your partnership. Congressional freshmen really do need your help right now to understand the ins and outs of health care, especially in their own districts. The five Health for Life pillars—health coverage for all, paid for by all; a focus on wellness; the most efficient, affordable care; the highest quality care; and the best information—predate health care reform and will continue to guide the AHA as we evaluate new proposals, so that's a great place to start.
Rich Umbdenstock is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. You can contact our guest author at firstname.lastname@example.org