Better Solutions for Healthcare

POLITICO Pulse: Will a divided Congress give hospitals what they want?

HOSPITALS LOOK AHEAD — The American Hospital Association, one of the biggest health advocacy groups in the country, released its policy agenda for the coming year — focusing on solving workforce shortages and securing more federal money for hospitals.

Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, AHA’s senior vice president for federal relations, told Pulse the group has several targets this year, including strategies to train more health care workers and tailor payments for hospitals in different geographic and economic settings.

Kidder Hrobsky added that the group has some draft legislation that hasn’t been released yet. And though the outlook isn’t great for a big health bill, AHA’s lobbyists are interested in passing smaller items separately, hoping to get more approved.

AHA’s agenda not only points to coming discussions on health policy but also represents the difficulties facing health organizations of all kinds: trying to move key post-pandemic legislation amid a deeply divided Congress.

But the group also anticipates challenges in Washington, D.C.: Congressional staffers have warned the AHA that hearings looking into hospitals’ compliance with price transparency and merger rules might be on the horizon.

Workforce shortages, which are of interest to lawmakers and a pressing issue for providers, are a key focus for the AHA’s 2023 agenda. Kidder Hrobsky said they’ve seen bipartisan interest in boosting the workforce. The AHA lists four goals for the year: improving workplace safety for providers, increasing the number of residency slots eligible for Medicare funding, boosting the number of workers in nursing facilities and diversifying the workforce.

Payment increases is another focus, including starting payments for hospitals that can’t discharge patients, addressing inflation through increased Medicare payments, protecting drug discounts through the 340B program, altering the Rural Emergency Hospital designation and creating a payment designation for Metropolitan Anchor Hospitals.

Some challenges are also being watched by the group, particularly the possibility of hospital policy oversight.

Kidder Hrobsky said staffers on the Hill told the AHA that committees might look into hospitals’ compliance with price transparency rules — and mergers and acquisitions that could threaten a competitive marketplace.

But she said she was confident in the public’s view of hospitals.

“I think, reputationally, hospitals can really stand on their own,” she said.