With the July 4 holiday just past and the dog days of summer approaching, the temperature may be heating up but nothing slows down in the world of health care. Here is a midsummer list of the important activities MHA is undertaking on your behalf that the heat cannot wilt:
- In Washington DC, we are working with our congressional delegation and the American Hospital Association to make sure our senators have everything they need to fight the bad health care bill that is working its way through the process – if process is still the correct word for what is going on. We’re working to send senators the latest information on the bill’s impact on Marylanders and Maryland’s hospitals, and bolster their case for “no.”
- We continue to work with state negotiators to improve the specifications of an enhanced All-Payer Model for Maryland. We shared with Health Secretary Schrader the letter that MHA crafted with your help, listing our serious concerns with the current term sheet. We expect a written response soon. The work to get to a feasible, achievable set of goals for Maryland's hospitals continues, and my thanks go to the hard-working and committed team of hospital negotiators representing you in this historic effort: Bob Chrencik, Peggy Naleppa, Ron Peterson, Joe Ross, Kevin Sexton, and Eric Wagner.
- While the legislature does not re-convene until January 10, we continue to work with legislators during the interim to set the stage for a reduction in the Medicaid hospital “sick” tax, including reminding them of the agreement last year to chip away at the tax by $25 million a year, and that the tax artificially erodes the state’s ability to meet the requirements of the All-Payer Model.
- MHA's Behavioral Health Task Force is continuing its important work, including a report that will lay out specific recommendations for the state to consider to address the substance abuse and mental health crisis that is affecting so many lives. That report is expected to be ready in August or September.
- We are working with the state Forensic Work Group to improve the availability of behavioral health services especially for forensic (criminal) patients. We are convening a discussion to check interest among our community hospitals in providing beds for certain of these patients in a public-private partnership; watch for more on this interesting work.
- The issue of patients' rights in Maryland’s hospitals is ongoing, but must be addressed in a manner that actually helps patients rather than adds red tape for both them and their hospitals. Our success in the last legislative session to fend off bad and prescriptive legislation cannot be celebrated; such legislation will arise again in the next session, and hospitals need to work on our collective consistency in providing information on patients' rights and the content of our patients’ rights statements in hospitals across the state.
- Last week we convened dozens of hospital emergency department clinicians, along with state regulators and emergency medical services specialists, to discuss concerns about recent upward trends in the number of ED diversions and ED wait times. The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) reported the extent of the problem, MHA staff provided a root cause analysis, and several ED clinicians presented best practices to improve ED throughput and avoid diversions. MHA will continue to work with MIEMSS and other stakeholders on this issue.
While there are of course many other issues being attended to on a day-to-day basis, these are among the ones that promise to have a broad yet direct impact on you and those you serve. I hope that your July and August will include some time away with family and friends, to cool off and gear up for the activities of the coming months.