Washington (December 21, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) led Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), and Bill Keating (MA-09) in a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to sound the alarm on barriers patients are facing in accessing health care as a result of closures, service reductions, mergers, and for-profit acquisitions of hospitals in Massachusetts and across the United States. Since 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health recorded 20 service reductions or cuts – including inpatient pediatric, obstetric, and substance use disorder care – across 17 cities and towns.
“Massachusetts hospitals report that they are caring for patients in emergency department hallways because skilled nursing facilities lack beds and workforce capacity is limited,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Secretary Becerra. “Nationwide, hospitals are struggling to manage surge capacity because of a bed shortage that predated the pandemic. Despite financial support and high caseloads, the health care system is exhibiting worrying signs of distress.”
“Children await placement at behavioral health care facilities in adult emergency rooms for weeks at a time. Patients—both children and adults—are waiting hours for a hospital bed or giving up before they can get care,” the lawmakers continued. “They are travelling longer to deliver their babies, access reproductive care, or get treatment for a stroke or heart attack. Or they pay higher prices for the care they receive. Health care workers face unsafe working conditions in which they labor to exhaustion to meet demand or lose their jobs. Although this crisis may have multiple causes, the impact to our health care system and patients is a clarion call to guarantee affordable, high quality health care for everyone.”
In May 2020, Senator Markey called on HHS to develop a national plan to increase the capacity of medical and non-medical personnel to support COVID-19 response systems. In April 2020, Senator Markey introduced the Unite Act to create a Health Force and Resilience Force to mobilize and recruit hundreds of thousands of Americans to strengthen the response to COVID-19.