CHA is speaking out against a provision in a bill making its way through Congress that could result in about $4 billion in cuts to hospitals.
The House passed the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act on Dec. 11 on a bipartisan 320-71 vote, sending the measure to the Senate. CHA is concerned about a "site-neutral" provision of the act that would level payments for drug administration regardless of where that service is provided.
CHA President and CEO Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, sent a letter to representatives Dec. 7 to express concerns about the act. She pointed out that hospitals continue to face the challenges of increased labor, drug and supply costs as well as shortages of staff and supplies.
"We ask that Congress support the work of our members by protecting the essential policies and programs that are critical to the health of communities by preventing any cuts in federal spending in Medicare and Medicaid," she wrote. "Specifically, we urge you to reject policies that reduce reimbursements under the Medicare program, especially site-neutral proposals."
Sr. Mary pointed out that site-neutral proposals don't account for the difference in care offered at hospital outpatient departments versus other places, such as physician offices and ambulatory surgical centers. Hospital outpatient departments are better equipped to handle sicker patients and emergencies and often provide around-the-clock critical care to communities, she said.
"This site-neutral proposal also must be rejected in light of providers' continued fiscal challenges, especially in rural and underserved areas," she wrote. "As Catholic health care providers, we are committed to reducing health disparities, promoting health equity and ensuring that everyone in our nation has access to affordable health care."
Opponents fear the site-neutral provision on drug administration in the pending bill could lead to other similar revisions in Medicare payment policies and more funding cuts. The Federation of American Hospitals, the American Hospital Association, and the Association of American Medical Colleges also have spoken out against the site-neutral provision.
CHA supports other items in the bill, such as money for the Community Health Center Fund; delaying $8 billion in cuts to Medicaid hospital payments; extending funding for the National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and loans to medical students; extending funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program; and extending funding for the Special Diabetes Program and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
The bill is H.R. 5378.