Workforce training, emergency response funding top AHA's FY2025 appropriations asks

As Congress hammers out the federal budget for 2025, the hospital industry’s wish list is headlined by programs to strengthen the healthcare workforce and hospitals’ emergency response capabilities.

In letters sent Monday to the heads of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on labor, health and human services and education, the American Hospital Association (AHA) underscored a “national staffing emergency” among nurses and physicians that threatens future access to care.

As such, the AHA joined other provider lobbying groups in calling for $1.51 billion in the FY2025 budget for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce development programs.

“The workforce crisis facing our nation necessitates bold increases in HRSA discretionary programs that address workforce challenges,” AHA wrote while noting that the investments could particularly improve access in rural and underserved areas.

AHA added its support for $210 million of discretionary funding and other “substantial” mandatory funding for the “critical” National Health Service Corps program along with higher funding for loan repayment programs in place for various types of medical specialists.

Similarly, the organization pushed lawmakers to support the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program at $758 million for the coming fiscal year and to put at least $45 million into a campaign to address burnout among healthcare workers.

Elsewhere in its letter, AHA told the appropriations subcommittees’ leaders that the Hospital Preparedness Program “has not kept pace with the ever-changing and growing threats faced by hospitals, health systems and their communities.” The group noted that most of the programs’ funds currently go toward regional collaborations between provider organizations and other public and private partners rather than to hospitals themselves.

Though the program’s funding was bumped slightly during the past four years to $305 million, the AHA called for lawmakers to double the funding to $610 million for the coming year “at minimum.”

“Funding [for the Hospital Preparedness Program] should reflect a more appropriate level of investment in emergency preparedness to ensure sufficient preparedness, response and surge capacity of hospitals as well as improved state and local infrastructures to help health systems and hospitals prepare for public health emergencies,” the AHA wrote in the letters.

The AHA went on to throw its weight behind maintained or increased funding for a slew of public health programs, such as the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant for state-level maternal care access and others focused on underserved or at-risk populations. The group also backed $1 billion in funding to support health IT adoption among behavioral health providers, funding toward adoption of a unique patient identifier and the reinstatement of several rural health programs that recently made their way through committee.

Recent weeks have tasked the appropriations subcommittees with numerous review hearings on the Biden administration’s proposed budget request, during which the heads of respective departments are questioned by legislators on the requests and their recent performance. The federal government’s FY2025 begins on Sept. 29, 2024—though tensions over hot-button issues like immigration and foreign affairs have plagued the current Congress and could again lead to delays or piecemeal packages should lawmakers have trouble coming to an accord.