I spent most of the last two days reconnecting with colleagues from children’s hospitals across the country. We had a great turnout (94 people from 42 children’s hospitals) at our Children’s Hospital Advocacy Day during which hospitals came into town and met with their elected representatives in Congress. As Jeanne Cummings, assistant managing editor at POLITICO, said in her remarks to children’s hospitals yesterday, this is the perfect time to be in DC and talking about health care.
And children’s hospitals have a lot to say. Not only are they struggling with very real challenges at the state level, but also the uncertainty of whether health reform will move or not. In their meetings with Congress, children’s hospital focused on some immediate requests and some related to health reform:
Provide Federal Funding to Ease State Medicaid Cuts — Children’s hospitals are asking for the continuation of enhanced Medicaid funding for states that was enacted in the stimulus bill last year, but runs out at the end of this year. Several children’s hospitals told me their states developed their budgets assuming this funding would be continued. Without the extension of this funding, even deeper cuts will be made at the state level that will most certainly affect children’s health care programs and the health care providers who participate in these programs.
Ensure Access to Care for Children Enrolled in Medicaid — The inadequacy of Medicaid payments for providers needs to be addressed. A first step towards this goal would be to increase physician reimbursement for evaluation and management services to Medicare levels as was proposed in the House health reform bill. Second, Congress should not cut disproportionate share hospital payments until Medicaid payments cover the cost of care.
Expand and Strengthen the Health Care Workforce — The Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program, which provides vital funding for the training of our nation’s pediatric physician workforce, should be funded at the full authorized amount ($330 million). Hospitals receiving CHGME funds train more than a third of all pediatricians and nearly half of all pediatric subspecialists.
Let’s hope these points are heard in Congress and influence action on health care moving forward.