- The American Hospital Association is asking Congress to use the pending $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package to address some of its topic priorities,
- In a letter to congressional leaders, AHA argued some of the funding should be used to address the ongoing labor shortage at hospitals and elsewhere in the healthcare sector, shore up mental health services and address ongoing coverage gaps that persist nearly a decade after the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility and opened up the state and federal health insurance exchanges. It also asked that providers not face any cuts in federal programs such as Medicare.
- The lobbying group also wants more flexibility in regulations to allow more patients to be cared for at home, and making the waiver of telehealth regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent, encouraging more use of remote services for rural and other providers.
Although the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package will likely be pared down to ensure its passage in the Senate, that has not stopped the AHA for asking for its share of whatever may remain. "It is imperative that … Congress invests in America's hospitals and health systems to ensure that the nation's healthcare needs can be met today and into the future," the letter begins.
Among AHA's workforce requests are the addition of more medical schools and the lifting of a cap on how many residencies are funded by Medicare; expansion of nursing schools and relaxation of visa restrictions on foreign-born nurses. It also asked that burnout among its workers is addressed, an issue that has become a growing concern, along with recruitment.
AHA also asked for greater funding to address mental health issues, including adding 1,000 Medicare-funded training positions in approved residency programs in addiction medicine.
As for insurance coverage, AHA asked that the expansion of premium subsidies under the American Rescue Act be made permanent, as well as relaxing qualifications for subsidies.
Under payment issues, the AHA has asked that a recent decision denying hospitals a mid-build exception to site-neutral payments under the 21st Century Cures Act be rescinded.
Citing COVID-19-related losses in 2020 and this year, AHA also asked Congress "to avoid consideration of any provider reimbursement cuts that would further strain financial resources for hospitals and health systems."
The sector has been under relentless financial pressure due to the pandemic, although the largest hospitals, at least, have stayed above water thanks to federal coronavirus relief funds approved last year.