Ad Campaign Against Payment Cuts Unites SEIU, Hospital Officials

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This week, the Service Employees International Union and the Greater New York Hospital Association launched an ad campaign together advocating for Congress to avoid any further cuts to hospital reimbursements.

The campaign is part of the Healthcare Education Project, a joint venture between the New York-based 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the GNYHA aimed at expanding healthcare access and making healthcare more affordable. The ads have appeared in major news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Politico, and it will expand to The Hill, Roll Call and CQ Weekly as well.

"We started this advertising campaign targeting members of Congress, and the impetus for the effort is the joint deficit reduction talks that are going to be taking place over the next few weeks," says Kevin Finnegan, political director of the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. Coincidentally, the ad campaign was not created with the government shutdown in mind, he says.

Instead, the campaign will focus on the aforementioned deficit reduction talks, which also include the annual fix of Medicare's sustainable growth rate. The SGR determines the payment rate for physicians, and Congress has temporarily bypassed it every since 2003 so physicians would not have to endure double-digit cuts to their Medicare pay.

HEP Storm AdThese political negotiations have been more pronounced over the past few years. Last year, Congress and President Obama agreed to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, also known as the fiscal cliff deal. Hospitals absorbed major cuts — including roughly $11 billion in MS-DRG documentation and coding adjustments and $4.2 billion in additional cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments.

Kenneth Raske, president of the GNYHA, sent a memo to New York hospital CEOs and CFOs earlier this week to inform them of the ad campaign. He said as Congress moves toward the budget talks, many healthcare provisions will continue to be put on the chopping block — including graduate medical education payments, site-neutral adjustments to Medicare outpatient payments and Medicaid reimbursements. Between the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the fiscal cliff deal, sequestration and various Medicaid reimbursement cuts, he said hospitals have quickly been pushed to the bleeding edge.

"Hospitals nationwide have already endured more than $250 billion in reductions since 2010," Mr. Raske wrote. "Now is simply not the time for additional hospital cuts of any kind. Enough is enough."

It's not every day a major labor union and hospital leadership sit on the same side of the table, but the groups said the consistent payment cuts are enough to bring them together, since they are directly affecting patient care. As hospitals work with tighter margins while trying to improve clinical quality, it'll take an industrywide effort to combat any further reductions.

"We're not on same page for every issue, of course, but where we have the same interests, we've been able to collaborate through this entity," Mr. Finnegan says of the Healthcare Education Project. "It was first formed to address state-based Medicaid cuts in New York, and we've kept it going."

More Articles on Hospitals and Unions:
Will Hospital Employment Push Physicians to Unionize?
How Hospitals and Unions Can Bridge Their Gaps
New-Era Executive Compensation: The Impacts of Dodd-Frank's "Say-on-Pay" for Hospitals

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