Congress returns this fall with a full slate. Among the most pressing issues are the authorization of an increase in the nation's borrowing authority (the debt ceiling) in mid- to late October and a fix for the physician payment formula before the end of the year.

As lawmakers grapple with the nation's fiscal business, the American Hospital Association is working to ensure that the voice of hospitals — and of the patients and communities they serve — is heard. Specifically, the association is working for passage of critical legislation that will help hospitals continue to fulfill their mission of caring, and protecting hospital payments as legislators look for savings and potential offsets for other spending.

The association also is working with regulatory agencies for needed changes to increase efficiency and ease the burden on hospitals so that staff can spend more time and resources caring for patients. More on each of these priorities, as well as background resources, can be found in the AHA's Fall Legislative & Regulatory Agenda at www.aha.org/content/13/13-fall-legregagenda.pdf.

There will be many opportunities in the coming weeks for hospital leaders, including trustees, to be involved. As a trustee, you are in an excellent position to help legislators understand all that your hospital does for the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the challenges that your hospital faces as it strives to continue to deliver those services. Remember to work with your hospital leaders to coordinate any contact with lawmakers to make sure you're sending the same message. Talk with your CEO about how you and your fellow trustees can play a role.

AHA will send alerts on specific steps hospital leaders can take to reach out to legislators and regulators to amplify the hospital message. The association's Advocacy Alliances provide information and opportunities to speak out on issues of particular interest to your organization. Visit www.aha.org for the latest news and updates.

Katherine Keene (klinnkeene@comcast.net), is COG chair and a trustee of Salem (Ore.) Hospital.