Long-term care providers are offering lawmakers policy ideas aligned with the changing healthcare landscape in the United States, in an effort to control costs and improve quality while avoiding slashed reimbursements, according to Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association. The leader of the nation’s largest long-term care provider organization spoke out this week for legislation based on $2 billion* in savings through reduced hospital readmissions.

Most of the current debate around the ACA is focused on Medicaid expansion in the states, but initiatives to reduce costs while improving quality are also central to healthcare reform, Parkinson said Thursday at a Politico Pro Health Care briefing in Washington, D.C. 

“The Holy Grail for providers has been, what can we do to reduce costs while keeping quality the same or hopefully improve it?” he said.

The quest for this grail has taken the form of AHCA’s Quality Initiative, which includes benchmarks for long-term care providers to reduce hospital readmissions by 15% by 2015. The organization is also floating a legislative proposal that would involve the federal government in this effort.

“Our proposal would aim to reduce these readmissions by $250 million each year through 2022 (totaling $2 billion),” explained AHCA’s public affairs manager, Rachel Reeves, in a statement to McKnight’s. “If the skilled nursing profession does not reach $250 million in savings one year or any year, then the bottom 40% of SNF providers would have to pay the federal government to ultimately reach $250 million.”

Putting providers on the hook to potentially pay Uncle Sam may seem like a bold gambit, but the approach has already staved off Medicare reimbursement cuts, Parkinson told The Hill.

Lawmakers appreciate AHCA’s willingness to suggest cost-saving solutions rather than simply plead for continued payments, which is one reason SNF reimbursements were not reduced to help pay for the last “doc fix” to extend Medicare’s physician payment rate, according to Parkinson.

A bill to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate and end the need for continual “doc fixes” is working its way through the House of Representatives. It remains to be seen how Congress will seek to fund the measure.

*Editor’s Note: This article originally stated this figure as $200 billion. It has been updated to reflect the correct number.