Essential hospitals’ mission to care for all people, including underrepresented and marginalized populations, make them providers of choice for communities that face significant health care needs and access challenges. Despite operating on margins one-third that of other U.S. hospitals, our members provide high-quality care in a wide variety of communities — from the nation’s largest cities to broad rural regions, where high rates of poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, structural racism, and other socioeconomic barriers put health at risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened disparities that persist in populations our hospitals serve. Essential workers and people of color have suffered COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths at disproportionately high rates. These populations turn to essential hospitals in times of need.
Essential hospitals rely heavily on a patchwork of federal financial support and resources to sustain the health care safety net and meet their mission. COVID-19 underscored the indispensable nature of each part of that patchwork with its heavy financial pressure on essential hospitals’ already razor-thin margins.
Ensuring a reliable safety net, one ready to meet the moment in any crisis, means robustly protecting and bolstering the mechanisms and ideals that make the safety net function. To do so, Congress must strengthen each thread in the fabric of the health care safety net by:
- preventing unintended cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments;
- protecting the 340B Drug Pricing Program;
- providing opportunities for capital investment;
- strengthening the health care workforce;
- supporting telehealth expansion and utilization;
- addressing social determinants of health;
- ending maternal health disparities; and
- recognizing the impact of structural racism on health outcomes.