Rural hospitals continue to face numerous challenges, and the American Hospital Association (AHA) has recently discussed its legislative priorities for these communities in 2024. Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, AHA’s senior vice president for legislative and political affairs, Travis Robey, AHA’s vice president of political affairs, and Shannon Wu, Ph.D., AHA’s senior associate director of payment policy, briefed attendees on the organization’s rural advocacy efforts within the context of its broader advocacy agenda for the field.
The 2024 rural advocacy agenda covers a range of priorities that are essential to rural hospitals. One such priority is supporting flexible payment options such as the Medicare-dependent Hospital and Low-volume Adjustment programs. AHA is urging policymakers to make these programs permanent to ensure that rural hospitals receive adequate funding.
Another key area of focus is ensuring fair and adequate reimbursement for rural hospitals in areas such as telehealth, infrastructure financing, and maternal and obstetric care. This includes advocating for increased funding for telehealth services to help remote communities access quality healthcare services.
AHA also wants to address health care professional shortages by increasing the number of Medicare-funded residency slots and encouraging incentives for clinicians to practice in rural areas. Additionally, they are committed to protecting the 340B Drug Pricing Program from efforts that seek to undermine it, particularly as it relates to contract pharmacy arrangements.
Finally, AHA will be focusing on holding commercial insurers accountable by ensuring that critical access hospitals receive cost-based care reimbursement for Medicare Advantage patients, increasing oversight and accountability of health plans to ensure prompt payment, and improving the prior authorization process. These are the key areas that AHA will be working on in 2024 to support rural communities and hospitals.