Health care issues have rocketed to the top of Washington’s agenda. It’s not just the effort to repeal and replace (or repair) the Affordable Care Act. There’s also talk of “restructuring” Medicaid and “modernizing” Medicare, not to mention the health policy and funding issues sure to arise when the time comes to extend the debt limit, fund the government, reform the tax system and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Recently, the AHA Board of Trustees held its annual retreat to assess the new political landscape, identify current challenges and focus on future opportunities. We agreed that during this time of change, America’s hospitals must speak with one voice, and our message to policymakers must be clear. We stand behind the following six principles:
First, we must maintain coverage for all individuals currently receiving benefits.
Second, the ACA should not be repealed without a simultaneous replacement guaranteeing adequate coverage. If that doesn’t occur, then the hospital and health system payment reductions for Medicare and Medicaid that were to be used to fund coverage expansions must be restored, so that we have the resources to help care for the increased number of uninsured.
Third, we support continued efforts to transform the delivery system toward fee-for-value using coordinated care and integrated delivery mechanisms, which are the preferred methods to improve care, achieve efficiencies and make care more affordable.
Fourth, we must enact regulatory relief to reduce the administrative burden on our caregivers, so that more resources can be devoted to patient care versus paperwork.
Fifth, any Medicaid “restructuring” should focus on providing states with “flexibility” accompanied by safeguards that provide sufficient funding to ensure adequate coverage. And expansion and non-expansion states must be treated equitably.
Finally, we must work to prevent any further reductions in payments for hospital and health system services to ensure that our patients and communities continue to receive access to high-quality care.
We recognize that America’s hospitals and health systems have the responsibility to offer creative policy solutions to address many of these issues. Thanks to the input of our members, the AHA has developed specific recommendations to do just that, and to consider other issues as well — such as ensuring access to care in vulnerable communities, reducing the skyrocketing prices of pharmaceuticals, ensuring long-term sustainability of the Medicare program and changing the approach used by the antitrust enforcement agencies.
We’ll continue to play a role in this national debate by providing additional information and resources to our members to produce a road map for shaping the future on all of these issues. It’s important to stay engaged as policymakers in Washington begin the process of writing law and implementing regulations.
We are also launching a new Committee on Health Strategy and Innovation to examine the important transformational issues that await our field on the horizon. After all, regardless of election results or the outcome of today’s policy debates, we know the future of our field holds many transformational changes — changes we must anticipate and welcome. First on the agenda for this new committee: tackling the issue of affordability and enhancing value.
Political winds in Washington may shift quickly — but the AHA’s dedication to our members, their patients and the communities they serve never will. Neither will our commitment to these six principles. Our vision is of a society of healthy communities, where every person can reach their highest potential for health. I’m confident we’re on the right path to bring us closer to that goal.
Rick Pollack is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.