The American Hospital Association isn't alone in its effort to reduce the paperwork and regulatory burden on its members-or in the alternative to get more money to ease its members' pain.
Groups that represent doctors, insurers and group practice administrators also have jumped on the issue, making it the lobbying strategy du jour. Some say they've been beating the regulation and paperwork drum for years, and welcome the AHA's spotlighting of the issue.
"We're all working together," said Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Health Plans. "This is a very important issue."
Ignagni said her group has for some time been "making the point that we think there needs to be fundamental reforms in the Health Care Financing Administration."
The AHA has made regulatory relief and paperwork reduction one of the focal points of its agenda this year because that's what the association heard from its members, said Mary Beth Savary Taylor, vice president of executive branch relations at the AHA.
But while some issues are new, the solution is old-more money from Medicare and Medicaid (May 7, p.12).
The AHA has talked with other groups, including the AAHP, the Medical Group Management Association and the National Association for Home Care, about its regulatory reform efforts, which include revising new federal privacy rules, streamlining the Medicare cost report and revising some of paperwork requirements for hospitals.
"I think there is room for everyone to tackle an issue this big," Savary Taylor said.
The American Medical Association also is active in regulatory and paperwork reform.
"We're happy to have the AHA," said William Mahood, M.D., an AMA trustee.
Mahood testified last week before the House Committee on Small Business about how burdensome paperwork and other regulatory requirements affect patient care.
To get its regulatory reform message out, the AHA is using a lobbying technique it employed successfully in 1999 and 2000 to help secure nearly $50 billion in increased Medicare and Medicaid payments to all providers: The AHA is stressing the plight of specific hospitals and disseminating the case studies to members of Congress. AHA officials would not say how much they are spending on the campaign.
The first case the AHA has highlighted is 14-bed Blue Hill (Maine) Memorial Hospital. Blue Hill's case study points out that it must complete a federal form with nearly 100 questions for each new home health patient. Blue Hill operates a home care agency and the form is a Medicare patient assessment tool that HCFA uses for payment and quality purposes.
"We've all got the same issues," said Blue Hill CEO Bruce Cummings, who also testified last week before the House committee.