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UCAOA Representatives Take to the Hill to Meet with Congressional Offices

Posted By Camille S. Bonta, MHS, Thursday, July 13, 2017

Members of the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) turned citizen advocates on May 3 as they traveled to Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers and their staff about the important role of urgent care in the health care continuum.

 

The “day on the Hill” coincided with UCAOA’s Urgent Care Convention & Expo and included the participation of 15 UCAOA representatives who met with 75 congressional offices, including with staff on committees with jurisdiction over Medicaid and veteran’s health care.

 

Beyond providing lawmakers and their staff a basic education of urgent care centers, UCAOA members solicited the support for soon-to-be-introduced legislation that would require the Veteran’s Administration to cover healthcare services provided to veterans in urgent care centers. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) will lead introduction of the legislation in the Senate, and the introduction of bipartisan companion legislation in the House is expected.

 

Similar to the enactment of federal legislation in 2016 that requires TRICARE — the health insurance program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families to cover urgent care visits without prior authorization, legislation to improve veterans’ access to urgent care centers is important to UCAOA’s broader efforts to educate payers about urgent care’s value proposition.

 

UCAOA representatives were on the Hill the day before the House of Representatives passed the GOP American Health Care Act. It is unclear the extent to which Republicans will ultimately be successful at dismantling Obamacare this year.  No doubt, however, that states will seek greater flexibility with their Medicaid programs. 

 

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. These states are very nervous because in almost each one of the expansion states, enrollment projections are higher than expected, which is putting a squeeze on state budgets.  Urgent care centers have the capacity to meet the nonemergency medical care needs of the Medicaid population at a fraction of what it costs to care for these patients in hospital emergency departments.  Yet, in many states, Medicaid rates for urgent care services are insufficient.  Because urgent care centers cannot provide healthcare services to Medicaid patients at a financial loss, states cannot establish a healthcare delivery infrastructure that encourages and supports lower costs sites of service for this population of patients until Medicaid rates are improved.

 

Improving Medicaid rates so they are on par with Medicare was another request to lawmakers. While budgetary considerations, including the failure of the Office of Management and Budget to conduct dynamic scoring that would count savings from shifting care out of the hospital emergency department into urgent care centers, make achieving Medicaid payment parity difficult, key congressional staff, during their meetings with UCAOA representatives, seemed genuinely interested in policy barriers urgent care centers face in caring for this patient population.

 

UCAOA’s “day on the Hill” constitutes just one component of the organization’s overall advocacy efforts, but an important component that UCAOA hopes to replicate and grow in the future.  A 2015 survey of congressional staff found that 94 percent note that “in-person visits from constituents” have some or a lot of influence on an undecided lawmaker a finding that has been consistent for more than a decade according to a report released this year by the Congressional Management Foundation.[1]

 

The survey also found that in-person meetings in which legislators and staff have opportunities to interact and develop relationships with constituents are very important for understanding constituents views, and that constituents meeting or getting to know legislative assistants

and district and state directors is a good way to build those relationships.

 

Contrary to what many UCAOA members may believe, they can use their voices to make a difference on policy issues important to the urgent care industry. UCAOA hopes its members will engage in advocacy efforts when called upon and, in the meantime, will use UCAOA resources made available to them to communicate and build relationships with their state and federal lawmakers, as well as with representatives of the payer community. 

 

To learn more about UCAOA’s advocacy activities, visit  ucaoa.org and look for “advocacy" in the menu bar.

Camille Bonta is the founder and principal of Summit Health Care Consulting in Breckenridge, CO focused on the lobbying, regulatory and advocacy efforts of national healthcare organizations, including UCAOA. 

 

 

 

 



[1] Citizen-Centric Advocacy: The Untapped Power of Constituent Engagement ∙ © Congressional Management Foundation CongressFoundation.org

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Tags:  Advocacy  AHCA  health  healthcare  payer  UCAOA  urgent care  veterans 

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