Our New Year’s Resolution: Set the Record Straight for Hospitals

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New Year’s resolutions are all about taking a step forward – improving yourself or something about the world around you, whether striving for big changes or more modest ones. Here at the Texas Hospital Association, our New Year’s resolution is an ambitious one: set the record straight and make sure the contentious year our hospitals faced in 2023 won’t be repeated.

John Hawkins, President/CEO, Texas Hospital Association
John Hawkins

This year is a critical one. We’re laying the groundwork for the next biennial session of the Texas Legislature, which begins in January 2025. We’ll be spending the year ahead working to counter the anti-hospital narratives that large insurance companies perpetuated during last year’s regular session, and to rebuild the foundational understanding of our hospitals’ vitality to communities across Texas.

As I’ve noted before in this column, the 2023 legislative session forced THA and its members to play aggressive defense. One misguided piece of legislation after another found unfortunate traction, all of them seemingly flowing directly from a perception that hospitals were to blame for today’s cost of care. Our members, our advocacy team and I were surprised that anti-business principles, such as government setting of payment rates, were included in legislation that found plenty of support at the Capitol. If one particularly alarming idea – banning all hospital outpatient payments – had come to fruition, scores of Texas facilities would have faced reductions in services or outright closure. That would have been disastrous for patients – and for the hospital industry, which is still stabilizing after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s true that we succeeded in stopping the worst insurer-backed proposals. But it’s also true that it has never been more imperative to illustrate the importance of hospitals’ care for patients in each community they serve. It’s time to bring the vision of lawmakers, and all Texans, back into proper focus before the next session convenes in about a year.

For us, that’s what 2024 will be all about. We’ll be highlighting how hospitals play a role in their communities that encompasses health care, but also goes well beyond it – including their role in the economic health and well-being of our cities and towns, where hospitals are often the largest employer. The cost of health care is an eminently complex topic, but we’ll distill it to show how costs and health care business arrangements work – and shine a light on health insurers, who boosted their profits during the pandemic and continue to do so even as they accuse hospitals of being the industry’s cost culprit.

That work will certainly continue once the 2025 session gavels in, when it’s time to throw hospitals’ weight behind legislation that helps Texans and employers, and to thwart the attacks and bad bills that we know will return. But the more groundwork we can lay during this year – the more education and factual information we can impart – the less clout our adversaries in the legislative arena will have a year from now. We also hope that along the way, some of those adversaries can see our perspective and become our partners. If that happens, realizing improvements to the infrastructure and systemic issues in Texas health care will become a lot easier.

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