Press Releases

Trahan, Valadao Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Save Essential Health Systems

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, and Congressman David Valadao (R-CA-22) introduced the Reinforcing Essential Health Systems for Communities Act, bipartisan legislation that would establish an “essential health system” designation in federal law, creating opportunity for more federal funding and support to flow to safety net hospitals that traditionally support more uninsured and low-income patients.

“Essential health systems serve the most vulnerable families in cities and towns across the nation, and these facilities deserve the funding and support necessary to maintain and expand their lifesaving services,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The Reinforcing Essential Health Systems for Communities Act will provide federal lawmakers with the avenues necessary to target funding and resources to these critical facilities – just as we’ve done with other types of hospitals that serve specific populations or regions. I’m grateful to Congressman Valadao for his partnership in leading this commonsense bipartisan proposal to strengthen health care access in the communities we represent.”

“We must ensure hospitals in our rural and underserved communities have the resources they need to provide high-quality care for Central Valley residents,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Reinforcing Essential Health Systems for Communities Act will clearly identify the hospitals that serve our most vulnerable communities, allowing critical federal resources to be more easily directed towards them. I’ll continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure Central Valley families have access to high quality, affordable health care.”  

Essential health systems are critical components of a city, town, or region’s health care network, often serving disproportionately higher numbers of Medicaid, low-income Medicare, and uninsured patients. Although these facilities provide, on average, five times more uncompensated care compared to other hospitals, they are historically underfunded and often limited in their ability to maintain and expand the critical health services they offer to patients.

To open additional pathways for support for these hospitals, the Reinforcing Essential Health Systems for Communities Act would carve out a new designation, “essential health systems,” in federal law. This change could then be used by lawmakers to better target funding, health equity initiatives, and public health resources to support these nonprofit facilities that serve traditionally vulnerable, under-resourced communities.

Hospitals would qualify as “essential health systems” by fulfilling one of three criteria:

  1. Disproportionate Patient Percentage: Captures a hospital’s portion of Medicaid and low-income Medicare patients.
  2. Deemed Disproportionate Share Hospital Status: Highlights a commitment to serving a high percentage of Medicaid and low-income patients and accounts for differences in Medicaid among states.
  3. Medicare Uncompensated Care Payment Factor: Identifies the relative amount of uncompensated care provided and can help capture the costs of care delivered to uninsured individuals. 

Under this definition, more than 1,000 hospitals nationwide and 18 hospitals in Massachusetts would be designated as “essential health systems” and made eligible for additional federal support, including Lowell General Hospital and Lawrence General Hospital.

“We are grateful to Reps. Trahan and Valadao for the Reinforcing Essential Health Systems for Communities Act,” said Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “This bill recognizes the special and vital role essential health systems play in caring for our most disadvantaged people and communities. It would give Congress a powerful and much-needed tool to drive better health care access and equity.”

“Hospitals that serve the most low-income patients and the most vulnerable communities are not like other hospitals. The Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals appreciates the introduction of this legislation as a step toward making sure safety-net hospitals are recognized as essential to the well-being of their communities,” said Ellen Kugler, Director of the Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.

“Every day, our caregivers work tirelessly to provide high-quality, essential services to individuals living throughout the Central Massachusetts region including those who face the most difficult social and financial challenges in accessing care,” said UMass Memorial Health President and CEO Dr. Eric Dickson. “This designation is a key step in supporting safety net organizations and represents our commitment to the most vulnerable and ensuring no one is left behind. We are grateful to Congresswoman Trahan for her leadership and recognition of the vital role safety net hospitals serve in our community.”

“Safety-net providers are vital to improving the health of our community and addressing the health needs of at-risk and medically underserved populations,” said Amy Hoey, RN, president of Lowell General Hospital. “I applaud Congresswoman Trahan for introducing legislation intended to help Congress identify and direct more resources to hospitals like Lowell General within our Tufts Medicine health system that are providing critical care to those in need.”

“In filing legislation to establish a definition of an essential health system, Congresswoman Trahan is seeking to mitigate decades of health disparities and strengthen the safety net,” said Abha Agrawal, MD, President & CEO of Lawrence General Hospital. “Creating an essential health system designation acknowledges the vital role these systems play in improving the health, well-being of vulnerable populations that rely on them, and potentially reducing the disparities in their financial underpinnings. This is a vital and important step that reflects Congresswoman Trahan’s commitment to the vital need within communities in her district and around the country to ensure access to essential health care.”

A copy of the legislation introduced today is accessible HERE.