Get our newsletters
Guest Opinion

“Site neutral” payments bad for health safety net


A recent guest opinion in the Bucks County Herald (“Implore Congress to increase hospital transparency,” March 14) proposes cutting hospital funding as a solution for containing rising health costs.

I certainly share the author’s concerns about affordability — it’s an issue which is very personal for me and one I am working to solve. But my experiences as a cystic fibrosis patient and cancer survivor have also shown me how incredibly vital it is to maintain access to hospital care.

And proposed “site neutral” hospital cuts would put patient care in jeopardy.

As a patient in the rare disease community, I know we can’t afford to lose more care centers and hospitals. Some patients travel a long distance for care as it is. It is already hard enough for us to find a quality doctor and facility that can treat/provide services. Cutting funding will only exacerbate this issue.

I’m lucky that I live near Center City, Philadelphia, and have been able to benefit from the quality hospital systems and doctors that partner with these facilities.

Access to hospital care is increasingly at risk, as more and more hospitals — especially in rural areas — are forced to reduce services or close entirely under mounting financial strain. Widespread workforce shortages, rising supply costs, ever-increasing claims denials from commercial insurance companies, and now a devastating cyberattack have all pushed hospitals to their breaking points.

Perhaps the situation would be less dire if so many hospitals weren’t already struggling. The timing for these crises could not be worse.

It’s no secret that Medicare already underpays hospitals — reimbursing only 82 cents on the dollar for the care they provide. This hasn’t stopped hospitals from serving those in need. In 2020 alone Pennsylvania hospitals provided more than $800 million in uncompensated care. But the present situation is not sustainable.

Hospitals can only backstop our public health for so long unless we strengthen the support they need. As a 2023 analysis observed, “…Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems are facing a perfect storm…without additional support, it is unclear whether many hospitals will be able to weather the financial disruption this crisis has created, which could, in turn, affect access to care across the commonwealth.”

Cutting hospital funding at a time when so many hospitals are at their breaking point is a recipe for disaster.

I know from my experience as a patient, that in order to preserve vital access to care, we must protect and strengthen the hospitals that provide it, and ensure they remain sustainable into the future.

Anna Payne lives in Middletown, where she sits on the board of supervisors. She is also a Democratic candidate for state representative in the 142nd District.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.