Hospitals, providers would benefit by energizing more voters

How healthcare delivery's finances fare in the future seem to rely more and more on political whims than the actual needs of the American public.

The creation of Medicare 50 years ago was really the first big healthcare policy move that was freighted with politics. But once the landmark program was signed into law, pretty much everyone in Congress and elsewhere focused on its implementation.

That hasn't been the case with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It's been the law of the land for five years now, and there have been two legal challenges that have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. A federal judge just gave more life to a longshot suit mounted by the House of Representatives, a case that could eventually wind up before the high court. That suit pivots on the funding of certain aspects of the ACA.

And now, funding for Planned Parenthood is under the microscope primarily because of dubious (and apparently heavily edited) videos that suggest the organization trafficks in the body parts of the unborn. A political battle over the organization's funding could be part of a budget stalemate and government shutdown. GOP leaders told the publication The Hill that whether or not Planned Parenthood has done something wrong is beside the point.

Previous government shutdowns have done nothing but damage the U.S. economy. And leaning on Planned Parenthood does nothing but prevent women from receiving the preventive care that often guards against serious maladies--such as breast and ovarian cancer--from developing down the line.

This developing fiscal standoff also includes cutting off funding for other valuable components for healthcare delivery, such as Title IX family planning funds that are disbursed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and ongoing funding for the ACA, NPR reports.

Due to an absurd amount of gerrymandering that plays specifically to low voter turnout and the misinformation about healthcare delivery that pervades the airwaves, the House in particular is no longer a functioning legislative body. It is instead a kabuki theater where Draconian measures with no hope of being signed into law are debated and approved. The only intent is mollify the handful of voters who will show up at the polls and re-elect the Representatives to their $174,000-a-year cushy jobs.

Ironically, many of these voters are decades past the need for any family planning services themselves. But it is apparent they feel the rest of America has no need for these services, no need for the ACA (they have Medicare already, thank you), and probably no need for you and me. Yet as The Hill also reported, polling of registered voters shows a strong preference for funding Planned Parenthood and keeping other healthcare programs in place.

To some extent, the checks and balances in the current system have kept something truly tragic from happening, like a deep funding cut that deep-sixes the AHRQ, or cripples the ACA or Planned Parenthood. But it could be just a matter of time before something like that happens. Providers will pay a steep price if this occurs.

Hospitals mostly do their political heavy lifting through their state lobbies and the American Hospital Association. But perhaps they can do themselves a favor by actually funding voter registration drives in their communities (I'm not sure about the federal laws regarding non-profit entities doing such work, but if this can be bent, it should), and perhaps even make such efforts a community benefit. As voter turnout rises, so do cooler heads. The U.S. healthcare system needs every one it can get. -- Ron (@FierceHealth)