Spending on infrastructure has been a hot-button issue in Washington, D.C., for several years. Congress appears to be on cusp of a bipartisan deal though. What should it mean for healthcare?
When you hear the words “infrastructure investment” in healthcare, what are some of your organization’s top priorities?
Brian Castrucci: It’s about preventing illness before it happens. Public health is the front line before the front-line healthcare worker. We need to recognize that investments in public health keep us safe, secure and prosperous. The fact that we have not made these investments, despite knowing that there was always a risk of a pandemic, placed us in a vulnerable position.
Stacey Hughes: I think it’s an answer that would have been the same probably pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 has really amplified how important hospitals and health systems are to the ecosystem. In terms of our priorities, it’s everything from the physical infrastructure to emergency preparedness and technology. Certainly it’s the workforce and all the issues they’ve faced.
What are some specific investments that should be targeted to address healthcare’s current needs and post pandemic?
Castrucci: Unfortunately, the way the Constitution is written, public health is the purview of the states. We need basic fundamental public health protections shared by all residents of this nation, regardless of what state or community you live in. There must be a baseline that governors and the federal government agree on as to what is the basic public health protection needed.
Hughes: In terms of traditional infrastructure, certainly broadband. The pandemic has put a lens on the value of telehealth. Frankly, I think it’s probably one of the more promising aspects of what has come out of the pandemic. Being able to connect with patients in that manner and fill the broadband desert, both in rural and other communities, is critical.
Why do you believe infrastructure spending of any kind has been a such hard sell in our country right now? Is it messaging? Politicization?
Castrucci: When it comes to public health, all too often, people ascribe it to one side of the aisle versus the other. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or whatever, if you’re not healthy, you can’t do the things you want to do in your life. We need to recognize that health for all is something that benefits our nation.
Hughes: As you might recall, during the Trump administration it was always infrastructure week. That never did come to life. It’s the polarization of Congress. Usually it’s easy for Congress to come together and spend money, but after significant investment because of COVID, that’s added restraints. But what we have seen in Congress in recent weeks has been a real bipartisan effort.