Earlier this month, senior leaders in the American Hospital Association descended on Capitol Hill to do their job -- lobby Congress to protect hospital funding from budget cuts.
Unfortunately, the hospital executives made a tactical error when they suggested that raising the Medicare eligibility age would be preferable to foisting more reimbursement cuts on hospitals.
That idea, one of 40 or so alternatives proffered by the hospitals, did not originate with AHA. That didn't matter. As soon as AHA aired it, they owned it.
Critics didn't see the three dozen or so other suggestions. The fact that the nation's hospitals would endorse cutting services for the elderly in the name of "shared sacrifice" and as an alternative to their own budget cuts immediately created bad will and adversaries both within Congress, and the public.
Stung by the backlash, the AHA now is pursuing a different, smarter tack.
In an Oct. 17 joint letter to the 12 members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Congressional – aka the "Super Committee" – AHA President Rich Umbdenstock, AHA Chairman John W. Bluford, American Nurses Association President Karen Daley, and CEO Marla Weston played up the financial stability that the nation's 5,000 or so hospitals provide in their communities. The two trade groups then warned the Super Committee that any significant cuts to Medicare or Medicaid "could create devastating job losses in our communities."
"While we recognize the serious fiscal pressures facing our nation, we feel it is counterproductive to target hospitals and the healthcare field for significant spending reductions at a time when we are providing economic stability and job growth in a sluggish economy," the ANA/AHA letter said.