Hospital executives ask Congress to stop arbitrary cuts

Hospital and healthcare system executives lobbied Capitol Hill this week and asked for the end to what they described as "arbitrary" funding cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, AHA News Now reported.

In addition to preserving payment rates for elderly and indigent patients, the hospital leaders also urged preserving additional payments for so-called critical access hospitals--small facilities that serve rural and isolated areas. They also asked for protection of the 340B drug discount program, which has come under fire in recent months due to potential reselling of the drugs at large profit by Duke University Medical Center and other hospitals in North Carolina. And they asked for relief of outpatient therapy requirements, recovery audit contractors and cuts in the disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program.

More than 100 hospital CEOs sent a letter to Congress asking to stop DSH program cuts, which were mandated by the Affordable Care Act, according to the Boston Business Journal.

"DSH payments are a critical source of funding for safety net hospitals across the country and help ensure that these hospitals can fulfill their mission of caring for the most vulnerable populations," a spokesperson for Boston Medical Center told the Business Journal.

In addition, more than 90 percent of hospitals surveyed said they had experienced some form of RAC activity in the past quarter, according to a recent survey by the American Hospital Association. The program has led to more than $2.5 billion in denied claims since the program was launched five years ago, often prompting hospitals to undergo a lengthy process to appeal the denials.

The lobbying was part of the American Hospital Association's Advocacy Day. Additionally, the trade group, which represents not-for-profit hospitals and healthcare systems, released infographics on daily hospital activity in the United States. For example, one infographic showed that U.S. hospital emergency departments treated 129 million people in 2011 and emergency rooms treat more uninsured and Medicaid patients than physician offices.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously mentioned Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a reseller of 340B drugs.

To learn more:
- read the AHA News Now article
- here's the Boston Business Journal article

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