Medical College Association Pushes Teaching-Hospital Budget Relief
First quarter balance sheets for the nation's teaching hospitals showed that the Balanced Budget Refinement Act passed by Congress last fall helped some, but failed to move many teaching hospitals from the brink of the financial crisis precipitated by the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997. So the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is pushing for a second round of BBA relief as Congress tries to finalize next year's budget before October 1.
The AAMC is backing the Teaching Hospital Preservation Act
of 2000 sponsored by Senators Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) and Edward Kennedy and Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) along with 39 cosponsors in the Senate and 72 in the House. It would freeze the Medicare indirect medical education payments to hospitals at 6.5 percent of Medicare payments. Last fall's bill would allow the rates to fall to 6.25 percent in fiscal year 2001 and to 5.5 percent the following year.
Working with a coalition that includes the American Hospital Association, the AAMC supported a midsummer petition drive that sent more than 500,000 signatures to Capitol Hill and the White House. The coalition will also place ads this fall seeking more support for BBA relief.
To make it easy for AAMC constituents to write their congressmen, the association has set up a website that automatically identifies representatives based on ZIP codes, addresses e-mail or printed correspondence to them, and provides a template letter on the issue. The site can be accessed at www.aamc.org/advocacy/bba.htm.
In addition to contacting one's own elected officials, the AAMC also encourages those supporting academic medicine to contact colleagues from states with key swing votes on the issue and ask them to write their congressmen. Those votes could come from Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), Sen. Bill Roth (R-DE), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL).