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CEO Message: Two Big Wins for California Hospitals

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In a year like no other, it’s safe to say the victories have been few and far between. But today, California’s hospitals got two big wins in Congress.  

First, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 1868 as amended, which will continue to delay the implementation of the 2% Medicare sequester until the end of the 2021 calendar year. The House passed the bill last week.  

The passage of the bill comes at a crucial time for hospitals, as many of them are strained by depleted revenues and increased expenditures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the House version included additional protections from cuts to Medicare beginning in 2022 and the Senate version did not, the House will now have to take up the Senate version. It’s expected to pass, and the President is expected to sign the measure. 

While we continue to ask for additional federal funds for hospitals’ pandemic response, this success cannot be understated. Any reprieve will go a long way toward helping hospitals as they struggle to maintain financial solvency. At a time when many hospitals are still struggling under the weight of COVID-19, these cuts could have been damaging to their finances. This was a hard-fought victory that was by no means guaranteed. CHA sent a letter in support of H.R. 1868 and thanks all our member hospitals that advocated on behalf of the bill. It’s not only a great win for California hospitals but for hospitals nationwide. 

The second win is very personal to California. An inadvertent drafting error in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 would have devastated funding for California’s Medicaid program. The error eliminated a cross-reference in law that allows California’s safety net hospitals to access critical Medicaid funds, just as they have been doing since 1997. Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy, along with Sens. Feinstein and Padilla, committed to work with CHA to get the error fixed. 

This too was a victory that was by no means guaranteed. The technical correction to fix this error was included in the sequestration package, but not everyone in Congress understood that it was purely a technical correction and several senators wanted to stand in the way. As a unified group — the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the District Leadership Forum as well as others — we were able to defeat the amendment that sought to strike the provision to correct the error.   

On very short notice, CHA called in reinforcements from around the country, including the American Hospital Association, other state hospital associations as well as leaders from hospital systems nationwide. In conjunction with our partners at the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the District Leadership Forum as well as others across the state we worked to shore up our senators and they responded with an important letter in support of the correction.  

Although very rare for the U.S. Senate to vote on an amendment with such a state-specific focus, CHA is proud to have leveraged its relationships both at home and across the country to get the job done.   

While these were two big victories today, CHA knows all too well that there are many battles to be fought. We’ll continue our work in Washington, D.C., to advocate for more funding from the Provider Relief Fund and relief for hospitals with Medicare Accelerated and Advanced Payments.  

Know that there is plenty of hard work ahead, but for now, it is time to be grateful.   

~ Carmela