Debt Deal Raises Real-World Worries for Healthcare Consumers

Sometimes the issues being debated in Washington, D.C., seem esoteric and removed from our everyday lives. But the recent debate and subsequent deal to raise the debt limit may have a direct impact on the hospitals, nursing homes, home health care agencies, physicians, rehabilitation hospitals and hospice agencies NJHA represents. It has me worried. Here’s why:

The Debt Ceiling Act calls for immediate reductions in spending of $917 billion. A so-called congressional “super committee” (yet to be appointed) is supposed to make an additional recommendation for $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. Much like the military base closure commission, these recommendations will be subject to a single, yea-or-nay vote by the U.S. Congress. If these recommendations do not pass, the Debt Ceiling Act calls for cuts to defense spending and Medicare spending for healthcare providers only of 2 percent. This translates to approximately $45 billion in losses over nine years to the nation’s hospitals. Hospital funding recently was cut $155 billion over ten years to pay for the Affordable Care Act. This is real money being taken out of a critical sector that provides essential healthcare services and jobs. And it comes at a time when the healthcare system is being asked to transform itself to provide accountable care, medical homes and patient-centered care. Taking another $45 billion out of hospitals during the same time period will make it difficult for us to transition, to reduce readmissions, to implement the appropriate health information technologies and continue our focus on patient safety and quality patient care.

We all count on hospitals for ready access to healthcare services for ourselves and our loved ones. But hospitals also are economic engines in the communities they serve – and recent events have underscored just how important that is for our country. Additional cuts on the federal level will inevitably mean reductions in jobs. That is the wrong thing to do in our current economic climate, where job growth is nominal but the demand for healthcare services remains as strong as ever.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 20:20

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