On April 25, a mighty band of GRMC advocates made our way to our nation's capitol to fight for fair and equitable Medicare and Medicaid payment as part of the American Hospital Association's Annual Meeting. Susan Witt (board chair), Ed Hatcher (board chair-elect), Michelle Rebelsky, MD, (physician board member), Rachel Cain (UI graduate student and our summer intern), and I all left Iowa on a gloomy day hoping to get our voices heard.
We arrived to 90 degree weather in Washington, D.C. The temperature was the perfect metaphor for the red hot debates on healthcare reform and sizzling presentations from some Beltway insiders we witnessed. By now, anyone who reads my blog knows GRMC is a so called "tweener" - too big to be a critical access hospital and receive cost based reimbursement and too small to be a rural referral center, which also has better payment levels. As for GRMC, we got paid some $7 million below our costs last year for providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients. Our simple goal is to push for legislation that would level the playing field and improve payment so we can continue to provide the care our patients have come to expect and deserve.
The highlights of our trip included a meeting of tweeners from around the country pledging to work together to coordinate our efforts and build a stronger voice to get our message heard. We also got educated on the latest efforts by our law makers and the Obama administration to reform healthcare. There seems to be a great deal of optimism that we will see legislation yet this year that will fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered and paid for in our country. As we heard over and over again, "the devil will be in the details." We wait to see just exactly what Congress will develop.
When talking to many Congressional leaders specifically about GRMC's payment issues, we were heartened to hear not only a thorough understanding of the unfair payment we receive, but a strong commitment to get the issue addressed this year. We had the great fortune to have dinner with Congressman Boswell on Monday evening and lunch with Congressman Braley on Tuesday. We also meet with both Senators Grassley and Harkin later that afternoon. There is no question that our congressional delegation is leading the effort to both reform healthcare and also address this specific issue that plagues GRMC. I am grateful for their efforts. I took along stories from more than 40 GRMC patients. You can read them here.
I also want to assure everyone that GRMC leaders are watching our pennies as we push for payment improvements. I am willing to bet that members of our delegation were the only ones attending the AHA annual meeting who shared hotel rooms - the ladies in one room, the gentlemen in another. Best of all, there was a power outage in our hotel Sunday night for eight hours. After we asked, the hotel agreed to not to charge us for that day. We took turns covering meals and taxis, and several of the board members covered their own costs. I believe this is going above and beyond, given these individuals are donating their time to go and advocate for the patients served by GRMC. Finally, I personally paid the cost for our intern to attend the meeting and will also cover her summer stipend. The legislation we are pushing for would increase GRMC's Medicare payment from between $800,000 and $1.6 million per year - so obviously the investment in travel to Washington is worth it if we can make it happen!
We managed to do some sightseeing between meetings and visits on Capitol Hill. Here are a couple photos of interest:
Standing in the "Soup Line" at the FDR Memorial hoping for a little relief from our lawmakers on our Tweener issue.
Ed and Michelle contemplating the day standing at the foot of Abraham Lincoln looking at the Washington Monument in the distance.
Taking our message to Capitol Hill.
We even stopped by the "Senate ATM" to try to get our share of the Federal stimulus funds, to no avail.
Finally, Ed thought maybe he could just jump over the fence at the White House to talk directly to President Obama. We talked him out of that idea!
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