While this year’s WHA Board of Directors annual retreat was held virtually August 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board took full advantage of the opportunity to interact with U.S. Health & Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack to discuss the latest major issues for hospitals and health systems.
HHS’ Hargan shared his department’s support for enhancing telehealth services during COVID-19 and reiterated the Trump Administration’s desire to make permanent some of the flexibilities that were established to allow greater access to care. Hargan also discussed how the administration hoped to soon announce an update on its plans to finalize its proposed changes to the Stark Law and Antikickback Statute to help advance value-based payments (note:
those plans solidified August 26 with HHS announcing that it was delaying publishing a final rule
until August 2021). Responding to board member questions regarding CMS’ price transparency rule, Hargan mentioned that CMS will soon publish an FAQ on the rule, and shared that questions can be emailed to PriceTransparencyHospitalCharges@cms.hhs.gov
Board members raised concerns about the lack of adequate COVID-19 testing supplies and asked what HHS is doing to help. Hargan responded that HHS is aware of oversupplies in some areas and shortages in others. He said they will continue to work with states, including Wisconsin, to assist with testing needs. WHA will continue to prioritize working with the state’s federal congressional delegation and HHS officials to gain clarity on what role the federal government can play to alleviate these supply shortages.
AHA’s Pollack shared lessons his organization has learned during the nationwide pandemic and discussed the challenges the nation’s hospitals have faced as COVID-19 cases spiked at different times throughout the country. Pollack highlighted the upcoming November elections and how the health care landscape might look under a second Trump term or a Biden administration.
Following comments from Hargan and Pollack, WHA board members engaged in a robust discussion about Wisconsin’s health care landscape, sharing both the continuing challenges of providing health care during a generational pandemic as well as areas of optimism for health care’s future. That optimism is fueled by how hospitals and health systems have come together – especially through involvement with WHA – to face COVID-19 with a united front.