With the legislative year coming to an end in Sacramento last week, and important signing decisions yet to be made by the Governor, our advocacy in Washington, D.C., is heating up.
Congress returned Sept. 9 facing a full legislative agenda. Because neither party wants another government shutdown, the House of Representatives passed a measure to keep funding flowing through Nov. 21. The Senate is expected to consider that legislation in the next few days.
There’s also a full slate of health care issues up for debate in the coming months, so it was important that we took the opportunity last week, alongside nearly two dozen of California’s hospital CEOs, and with our partners at the American Hospital Association, to spend time with members of the California congressional delegation to discuss the issues most important to your hospitals and your patients.
As we made the rounds on Capitol Hill, some common themes emerged:
• Surprise billing: This issue is top of mind for Congress. Over the summer, one House committee reported legislation, the No Surprises Act; two others are expected to craft additional bills, and we could see a House floor vote sometime this fall. This week, the issue took on a new depth when the House announced an investigation into private equity firms that own physician-staffing companies, and whether they use out-of-network billing as an intentional strategy. In the meantime, we’ll keep reinforcing our message that hospitals support taking patients out of the middle when it comes to out-of-network bills, but we stand firmly against rate setting as part of the solution.
• Eliminating payment cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospitals (DSH): Set to take effect Oct. 1, cuts to Medicaid DSH hospitals will be unsustainable for many hospitals and could sever the safety net for your most vulnerable patients. We’re fighting hard on this one, urging that the cuts be eliminated or – at a minimum – delayed. The good news is that we have strong support in Congress, and a delay in the cuts for the first quarter of the 2020 fiscal year is part of the current House bill to temporarily fund the government. It’s good to be part of “must-pass” legislation, and we’ll keep pressing to get this done.
• Drug pricing: Reducing consumer drug prices remains a high priority for both Congress and the president. As we monitor those evolving efforts, we’re engaged in discussions with California congressional leaders to fully understand the various forms any pending legislation might take, as well as any impact on patients and hospitals.
As we continue to fight for policies that help you care for your patients and communities, last week’s meetings in the nation’s capital make clear that our greatest strength is in our unity, and when you lend your personal voice to the conversation, our message resonates. Thanks to all of our AHA regional policy board representatives who traveled to set the stage for our senators and representatives as they prepare to make decisions that will affect all of your hospitals.