In countless articles, political speeches-even TV ads-the American people are told what the Medicare bill means for them. But to understand the effects of this bill, all one needs to do is walk into a hospital.
See the emergency department, open at 3 a.m. for a child suffering an asthma attack or a father having chest pains. Witness nurses and doctors introducing new parents to their babies and carefully watching over the intensive-care-unit beds.
See a senior in a hospital bed because she couldn't afford the medicines that could keep her well. This Medicare bill provides a long awaited drug benefit for seniors, but it also goes a step beyond and gives hospitals the resources needed to help them keep their promises of care.
Earlier this year, the nation's hospitals faced the threat of $12 billion in cuts. But through the hard work of hospital leaders across the nation, congressional lawmakers heard loud and clear that investment was needed, not cuts. Now, all hospitals have the opportunity to get a full inflationary update under Medicare that will help them keep pace with the ever-rising costs of hospital worker salaries, pharmaceuticals and new technology. The final bill has nearly $25 billion over 10 years in much-needed support for hospitals.
Specifically, the bill will allow America's teaching hospitals to continue training tomorrow's caregivers by restoring critical funding. It improves payments to rural hospitals in several important ways. It protects vital community services, from trauma to neonatal care, by placing an 18-month moratorium on self-referral in new physician-owned specialty providers while the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and HHS study the issue in detail.
To help hospitals treating large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, the bill provides relief through the Medicaid disproportionate-share hospital program. The legislation also recognizes that hospitals in border states need help treating large numbers of illegal immigrants in their emergency departments.
This funding is more than dollars and cents. It's an important lifeline for many hospitals as they strive to care for their communities. It translates into care for family, neighbors and friends and allows us to perform the medical miracles that happen around the clock every day.
America's hospitals are committed to their patients. We work day in and day out for healthier communities. Simply put, this legislation helps us do that job better.
Rick Pollack is the executive vice president of the American Hospital Association, Washington