A recent survey found that Congress is less popular than root canals, traffic jams, and Brussels sprouts. Between partisan wrangling, brinksmanship, and the challenge of coming to agreement, it’s no wonder many would prefer eating their vegetables to watching the legislative process.
And yet, Congress has enjoyed a number of important achievements in recent months. On Jan. 1, Congress approved the American Taxpayer Relief Act, a bill that protects 98 percent of Americans from significant tax increases. Both the House and the Senate recently passed budgets, setting out fiscal roadmaps for the coming year. On March 21, Congress passed a bill that will fund the federal government for the balance of the fiscal year.
Sadly, the future looks murkier. The Treasury Department indicates that the government will reach its borrowing limit sometime this summer. House Republicans are demanding dollar-for-dollar spending cuts for any increase in the debt ceiling. The White House has called for new tax revenue. Neither side appears anxious to budge. This debate will take place as $85 billion dollars in 2013 sequestration cuts begin to take effect.
All of this comes in the midst of the ongoing implementation of health reform. States are busy determining whether they will operate their own health insurance exchanges and whether they will expand Medicaid. The medical device tax, a health reform provision that could impact the prices blood centers pay for certain medical devices, took effect in January.
In a threatening environment for healthcare providers, the only solution is to be active. We will all need to write our members of Congress, visit their offices, and invite them to tour our blood centers. Those who are not active in the political process continue to face great risks in a time of budgetary uncertainty. Consider the large number of new members – 84 in the House and 13 in the Senate – that need to be educated on blood center issues. In the great words of former Sen. Alan Simpson, we all need to “take part or get taken apart.”
The outcome of the coming months is unclear, but this much is certain – ABC members will need to be engaged to ensure the interests of blood centers are represented. As you do so, grab a bowl of Brussels sprouts and get ready for a wild ride.