The dynamics of healthcare reform may wildly change in the weeks ahead. The congressional calendar calls for a short legislative session followed by nonstop campaigning, a November election followed by a lame-duck session, and then finally the seating of a new Congress that could feature a shift in power in the Senate.
While healthcare stakeholders have their own interests and priorities, reaching an agreement to fund the government beginning Oct. 1 will top the legislative agenda, said Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association's senior vice president for government relations.
Healthcare reform-related issues that the AHA is still working to get done this year—regardless of who wins the elections—include changes to the CMS recovery audit contractor program and recalibrating hospital readmission quality scores. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that calls for considering the socio-economic factors of a hospital's service population in calculating readmission scores in pay-for-performance formulas, he said.
In addition to working on those two fronts, Nickels said, the AHA also has to guard against legislators' attempts to pay for their own pet programs by cutting Medicare funding—particularly funding for graduate medical education.
Chet Speed, vice president for public policy at the American Medical Group Association, said refining Medicare's shared-savings program for accountable care organizations tops the AMGA reform agenda along with stabilizing funding for Medicare Advantage plans.