For a complete list of committee members, visit SHM’s new Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/hospitalmedicine/home/. See “New Advocacy Tool Available,” for more information on the Legislative Action Center, above.)
Starting Over on Key Issues
Many of the bills introduced in 2006—particularly spending bills—were not voted on by the end of the lame duck session last fall. That means that these bills must be reintroduced in the new year. Bills that recommend funding changes are frozen, so agencies continue to receive 2006 funding until the new Congress votes to change their budget.
“All bills have to be reintroduced in the 110th,” stresses Allendorf. “It will take some time—how much depends on the issue. The Democrats may want to hold hearings on legislation, or they may simply dust off legislation that was introduced last year.”
The Democrats are expected to move on many of the issues that SHM has been lobbying for. “They’ve said that they want to reform the healthcare system,” says Allendorf. “Top issues include providing coverage to the uninsured, reforming Medicare Part D, and resolving the physician payment issue.”
Allendorf believes that there will be a bipartisan effort to push through physician payment reform. “There are some 265 members of Congress who requested action on this issue this year [in 2006],” she points out. “There’s a genuine interest and desire to address physician payment reform and pay-for-performance as well. They may differ on how quickly they want to move on some of these.”
The news is not so good on the issue of gainsharing, where physicians are allowed to share the profits realized by a hospital’s cost reductions when linked to specific best practices. “Representative Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) was a big proponent of this issue in the House, and she was not re-elected,” says Allendorf. “Stark is an opponent of gainsharing, so there may not be the same Congressional push behind it—at least in the House.”
However, the unexpected gainsharing demonstration projects approved in 2006 are underway, and Congress will hear reports on those in several years, once the projects have been analyzed.
Another issue that may not be addressed is liability. “Medical liability reform will be on the back burner,” warns Allendorf. “It’s generally not supported by the Democrats.”
In 2006, SHM supported increased funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)—this was one of the major issues addressed by members during Legislative Advocacy Day during the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Whether the next budget includes more money for the agency remains to be seen. “The Democrats support increased funding for NIH (National Institutes of Health), AHRQ, and other healthcare agencies,” says Allendorf. “There’s certainly political will, but where is the money going to come from?”