AHA to Trump: Dump MU Stage 3, suspend star ratings

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is concluded, and we are left with a new leader and a country still divided. But hotel operators are taking a swing at optimism.

Cancel Stage 3 of Meaningful Use. Set up financial penalties for Recovery Audit Contractors that incorrectly deny claims. Protect the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

Those were just three of the requests that the nation’s hospitals want President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to honor once he takes office next year.

In a Nov. 30 letter to Trump, American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard J. Pollack, outlined five actions the new White House administration could take that will allow healthcare organizations and providers to improve care and make it more affordable to patients.

“Hospitals serve as an anchor and key access point for healthcare services in their communities and, as such, are advancing health in America,” he wrote. “We look forward to working with you and your Administration on public policy solutions to achieve our vision of a society of healthy communities where all individuals reach their highest potential for health.

The nation’s largest hospital lobbying group urges the new administration to:

Reduce regulatory burden on hospitals and providers: The letter calls on Trump’s administration to cancel Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program so that hospitals won’t be forced to spend huge amounts of money upgrading their electronic health records to meet regulatory requirements. Hospitals also wants the government to set up financial penalties for Recovery Auditor Contractors that have high rates of incorrect denials that lead to unnecessary appeals. Those appeals have led to a significant backlog of claims.

In addition the AHA has asked Trump to create exception safe harbors and waivers under the Anti-kickback statute  and revise the “Stark law” to protect arrangements that meet the Anti-kickback safe harbor so that physicians and hospitals can work together to improve care.

Hospitals also want the government to standardize the federal merger review process between the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to better support hospital transformation. They also ask that the administration eliminate outdated regulations that threaten access to post-acute care, such as the long-term care hospital “25% Rule.”

Enhance affordability and value: The government could help accomplish this goal, Pollack wrote, if it adopted a comprehensive set of solutions to address escalating drug prices, such as introducing generic alternatives, discouraging anticompetitive tactics and placing requirements around direct-to-consumer advertising.

Furthermore, Pollack writes, the government must product the 340B Drug Pricing program, which allows eligible hospitals to reduce the cost of outpatient drugs for patients. Hospital also urge the administration to continue challenging mega health insurance company mergers, develop policies to rein in medical liability and explore Medicare reforms that will make the program more sustainable,

Promote quality and patient safety: This could be accomplished, he wrote, if the government streamlines quality reporting, focusing on meaningful measures; modifies the readmission reduction policy to adjust for sociodemographic factors so hospitals aren’t penalized for factors outside of their control; suspend the “flawed” and “inaccurate” hospital star ratings on the Hospital Compare website; and advance health IT by supporting the adoption of interoperable electronic health records, promoting a more consistent use of IT standards and providing improved testing, certification and transparency about vendor products.

Ensure access to care and coverage: The AHA urges the government continue funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program; improve access to mental health services by addressing workforce shortages, increasing funding for behavioral health services, promoting policies that better integrate mental and physical health, and removing barriers to mental health treatment.

The lobbying group also asks Trump to help stop the opioid crisis, reject “site-neutral” payment cuts, and advocate to make the Veterans Choice Program permanent.

Advance health system transformation and innovation. The AHA urges the administration to promote the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring; waive the skilled nursing facility three-day stay rule; provide new options on care delivery that reward more efficient, coordinated care and help ensure access to essential healthcare services.