Hospitals embrace reform, worry shutdown will hurt care

Various hospitals groups have expressed disappointment with Congress for not reaching an agreement on funding for healthcare reform and are concerned about how the government shutdown will affect care.

With disrupted National Institutes of Health funding to support medical research and discontinued payments for physician training at children's hospitals, medical school physicians will "almost immediately" feel the effects of the shutdown, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

"[W]e encourage policymakers to consider the dramatic impact that funding cuts to medical research and doctor training will have on the health of the country and the millions of patients who depend on the lifesaving research conducted at, and critical healthcare services provided by, the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals," AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said yesterday in a statement.

Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) yesterday warned the government shutdown will stop funds to programs critical to meeting children's health needs--such as Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education, Head Start or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's seasonal influenza program.

"With nearly one in five children living in poverty, today's inaction by Congress significantly harms the most vulnerable families," Thomas K. McInerny, M.D., AAP's president, said in a statement.

Regardless of what government does or doesn't do, large healthcare organizations including Baylor Health System and Tenet Healthcare Corporation are embracing healthcare reform, The Dallas Morning News reported. For instance, both Dallas hospital companies are moving ahead with integration plans and setting up contracts with health exchanges.

"We need to redesign the way we deliver health care regardless of what the government says or does," Baylor CEO Joel Allison told the Morning News in a phone interview. "I'm not waiting on whether it's going to be repealed or defunded or delayed. We're going forward because in my mind it's the right thing to do."

And hospitals and clinics in Butte, Mont., also are welcoming Tuesday's launch of federal-mandated healthcare reforms. Expecting a flood of patients seeking insurance in the new online marketplace, area providers have hired new employees to provide patient outreach and counsel, The Montana Standard reported.

The hospitals also are embracing the industry shift toward preventive care under healthcare reform laws, citing hospital savings from fewer chronic conditions and emergency rooms visits from uninsured, the article noted.

For more:
- read the AAMC statement
- here's the AAP statement
- check out the Dallas Morning News article
- here's the Standard article