AHCA launches campaign for Sustainable Growth Rate reforms

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson
AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson

Today marks the launch of a comprehensive new effort from the nation's largest long-term care provider association, aimed at encouraging constructive reforms of Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate.

The “Positively Skilled” initiative will be an “across-the-spectrum push” that embodies the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living's proactive lobbying approach, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Greg Crist told McKnight's.

The association's goal is to reach policymakers and staffers in the recently convened Congress, as they enter into deliberations on the SGR. Last year, lawmakers came close to permanently repealing Medicare's flawed formula for determining physician payments. This possibility has dimmed somewhat, and legislators now might seek a long-term patch that would be in effect until the next presidential administration, sources told McKnight's. They indicated that a more short-term patch also might still be on the table, and said that a House committee likely will conduct an SGR-related hearing next week.

Congress repeatedly has enacted these so-called patches or “doc fixes,” which put off SGR-mandated payment cuts but must be paid for with offsets from other parts of the Medicare program. These offsets have sometimes come from SNF reimbursements — a scenario that AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson does not want to see repeated.

“Another short-term patch shouldn't cut our providers and potentially harm the over 3.5 million residents and patients we serve every year,” he noted in an emailed statement to McKnight's. “No matter the process or the time length, however, we will be engaged and eager to continue offering constructive solutions.”

AHCA's specific policy ideas will be forthcoming once the “Positively Skilled” campaign is up and running. Parkinson's reference to “constructive solutions” suggests that the association will continue with a strategy that has borne fruit: Drafting policies that tie payments more closely with sought-after quality outcomes. The idea is to achieve Medicare savings while also updating care delivery, rather than subjecting providers to an across-the-board cut.

The first stage of the new lobbying effort will include a multimedia campaign in the area around Washington, D.C., including digital, print and radio content. Innovative elements include sponsored messages on music streaming websites Pandora and Spotify, and messaging throughout a Metro stop near the Capitol. The spots include information about the positive impact that skilled nursing providers have for patients, and statistics demonstrating their commitment to continuously improving quality of care, such as through reducing unnecessary medications.