Associations lobby for some BBA relief

Hospitals could lose $5 billion this year

The Congressional session may have been a lame duck, but it carried primary urgency for health care organizations pushing for relief from Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997 cuts.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) in Chicago estimates that America’s hospitals and health systems need $25 billion over five years to help offset the cuts. The AHA was gathering forces with other health care organizations as members of Congress returned to duty on Dec. 5 to discuss five budget bills and a tax package that includes a "revised" BBA relief bill, the Medicare, Medicaid & SCHIP Beneficiary Improvement & Protection Act of 2000 (HR 5543). The bill costs about $33 billion over five years. If relief is not passed this year, hospitals could stand to lose more than $5 billion in government support, according to AHA President Dick Davidson.

Although Congressional leaders have been optimistic that BBA relief legislation would pass, the AHA and other health care organizations were not taking any chances. First, they drew health care member delegations and grassroots activists together on Capitol Hill for Advocacy Days, held Nov. 14-17. Organizations cosponsoring these events include the AHA and its related organizations, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, Premier, and VHA. After being briefed on the BBA relief situation, the advocates spoke to their elected representatives to try to persuade them to support the relief legislation.

The organizations also began a fax-back campaign. A form that resembles a petition was sent to hospital CEOs and other leaders. The form asked the executives to gather signatures and addresses from employees, volunteers, and patients and then to fax the information to the legislators. In addition, a new ad campaign from the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care in Washington, DC, hit the airwaves, asking for support of the relief effort.

Hospital Payment & Information Management will follow the progress of the BBA relief legislation and will report on it in future issues.