BALTIMORE — Hospitals and nurses alike scored a big victory a little over a week ago, with the unraveling of efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, preserving coverage for millions of Americans. But nurses’ voices will be all the more important in the aftermath, as politicians in D.C. figure out the path forward for the health care field.
That was the message delivered Friday afternoon by American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack. He spoke during the second day of the American Organization of Nurse Executives’ Annual Meeting, here in Baltimore. While it might be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief after the battle that just ended, there are still plenty more battles to be fought on the Hill — chief of them is stabilizing the insurance markets — and Pollack said nurses will play a key role.
“Your voice is highly respected. Your voice is extremely valued. And your voice is indispensable, if we are to meet our commitment to our patients, our facilities and our communities,” he told attendees.
With Obamacare now the “law of the land,” according to House Speaker Paul Ryan, following the defeat of its replacement, attention now turns to how to stabilize its health insurance marketplaces. The American Hospital Association — which is the parent organization of both AONE and Hospitals & Health Networks — released some of its own ideas last year, prior to the election, on how to do just that. Most pressing, Pollack said, is the need to provide cost-sharing subsidies for low-income individuals, along with making sure that insurers have the appropriate risk-adjustment formulas to keep markets viable.
Stabilization is a pressing concern, with health plans needing to file rates for 2018 plans this spring. But legislators have been sending “mixed signals” about the path forward following the failure of the American Health Care Act, with many loathe to try and improve the piece of legislation that they’ve railed against for years.
And despite the urgent need for action in the marketplaces, Pollack is concerned that health reform will get placed on the backburner for the foreseeable future. That’s because there’s a “legislative traffic jam” forming on the Hill, with the upcoming spring break, the government running out of money on April 28 and the pending vote on Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination.
There’s a bevy of other items on the association’s advocacy agenda going forward — with the debt limit needing to be increased in the fall, there’s always concern about corresponding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Politicians may look to those programs to find savings, in order to pay for other initiatives like infrastructure initiatives and tax cuts. Plus, there’s the ongoing concern of skyrocketing drug prices and the need for relief from the regulatory burden placed on hospitals, Pollack said.
But he’s heartened by the fact that none of the repeal-and-replace talks have focused on upending reforms to the health care delivery system — bundled payments, medical homes, accountable care organizations, etc. “These strategies are key to addressing the issue of increasing affordability and value to our patients, and all purchasers of health care services,” he said.
AONE, which has more than 10,000 members, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. And Pollack said the association is excited to work with nurse leaders on blazing that path forward and shaping the field for the next half century that will follow.
“None of us knows what the next 50 years will bring for the health care field, but whatever the future may hold, we know nurse leaders will be on the front lines of change — leading the way in innovation, in practice and in our shared mission to improving the health of all patients everywhere. I’m looking forward to tackling that mission with you.”