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AHA Outlines Healthcare Policy Priorities in Letter to President-Elect Trump

December 2, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Association calls for the cancelling of MU Stage 3 and continuation of technology innovation

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has written a letter to President-elect Donald Trump outlining the organization’s public policy priorities for the new administration—including reducing regulatory burden for providers and continuing to advance health system innovation and transformation.

“To help advance health in America, we ask that your administration—in collaboration with Congress and the courts, and in partnership with healthcare providers—help modernize the public policy environment to enhance providers’ ability to improve care and make it more affordable for patients,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement.

Pollack continued, “Specifically, the AHA’s priority areas are to: reduce regulatory burden, enhance healthcare affordability and value, promote quality and patient safety, ensure access to care and coverage, and advance health system transformation and innovation. “As your Administration and Congress look to address the healthcare needs of Americans, we look forward to working with you on solutions that will ensure the adoption of sound public policies that result in more affordable, accessible, high-quality care,” AHA said.

Drilling down into AHA’s priorities that especially involve health IT, the organization first wrote about the need to reduce regulatory burden. AHA wrote, “The regulatory burden faced by hospitals is substantial and unsustainable. Specifically for health IT policy, they urge Trump’s administration to cancel Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program so that hospitals won’t be forced to spend large amounts of money to upgrade their electronic health records (EHRs) just to meet regulatory requirements.

Regarding quality and patient safety, AHA said that providers are “stymied by an ever-increasing number of quality reporting requirements, many of which are overlapping, conflicting, and fail to focus on actual opportunities to improve care.” AHA then asked Trump’s administration to: streamline, prioritize, and simplify quality reporting to identify and focus on meaningful and valid measures that matter; modify the current readmissions policy to include a sociodemographic adjustment so providers are not penalized for factors out of their control; develop a reporting option which would allow hospital-aligned physicians to fulfill Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) quality reporting requirements based on hospitals measures; advance health IT by supporting the adoption of interoperable EHRs; promote a more consistent use of IT standards; and provide improved testing, transparency and certification about vendor products.

AHA additionally noted that hospitals have already been at the forefront of new care delivery models such as accountable care organizations (ACOs) and bundled payments.  The association wrote, “We believe it is critically important that the healthcare sector continues to transform toward providing greater value for its services, and these new models hold the promise to improve patient convenience, care coordination and quality, while achieving cost savings.”

Specifically, AHA called for: promoting the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring; expanding the definition of alternative payment models (APMs) to allow more clinicians who partner with hospitals on new models to achieve payment incentives under MACRA; and waiving the skilled nursing facility three-day stay rule, telehealth restrictions, and prospective beneficiary assignment from all ACO models.

AHA also called for the need to “enhance affordability and value.” The letter stated, “Hospitals are working hard to make care more affordable by improving performance, adopting new payment and delivery models, enhancing quality and advancing health IT.

Further, regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the President-elect has promised to “repeal and replace,” AHA stressed that access to health insurance is critical for a healthier America.  It noted that pieces of the ACA are in need of reform, but any parts of the law that are repealed must include replacement plans that give individuals a mechanism to obtain affordable health insurance.

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