One of the things I enjoy about my job representing hospitals is that I learn something every day because healthcare is full of constant changes and challenges. One of the biggest changes during our lifetimes is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And one of the biggest challenges is an onslaught of proposed cuts to healthcare that could have an impact on patients for years to come.
These deep cuts actually begin with the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. The law promises to provide health insurance coverage to 39 million Americans who currently do not have insurance. The nation’s hospitals agreed to absorb a collective $155 billion in payment reductions over 10 years to pay for this program; New Jersey’s share of those cuts was $4.5 billion. It’s a lot of money, but we agreed it was the right thing to do to insure more Americans and bring much-needed reforms to our healthcare system.
But believe it or not, healthcare providers are now faced with three very real sets of additional cuts on top of the $155 billion in cuts under the ACA.
- First, Medicare providers – hospitals, nursing homes and others that take care of our seniors – face an automatic cut of 2 percent in Medicare payments if the deficit reduction “super committee” cannot come up with an agreement to cut the deficit by $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23 and win congressional approval by Dec. 23. That 2 percent cut translates to $1.2 billion for New Jersey providers over the next 9 years.
- Second, President Obama has proposed his own deficit reduction measure that would cut both Medicaid and Medicare to the tune of $320 billion.
- And finally, the President has proposed a third set of healthcare cuts to stop a 29 percent reduction to physicians’ Medicare payments that is slated to take effect in January. We agree wholeheartedly that the physician cut must be averted to ensure Medicare patients have access to the doctors they need. But that action must not come on the backs of hospitals and other healthcare providers that also provide essential Medicare services.
Our hospitals have done a tremendous job in recent years to streamline operations and operate more efficiently, but cuts of this magnitude are not possible without cutting deep into the very heart of patient care services. We have agreed to be partners in transforming our industry and putting “skin in the game.” But with these cuts, we now are getting to the muscle, bone and the marrow. It’s all the more perplexing because healthcare is one of the few sectors in our economy that is growing and adding jobs – and these cuts could halt and even reverse those economic benefits.
Years ago, I worked in New York during an era of large proposed cuts to healthcare. Our mantra during that time was, Some Cuts Never Heal. We’re now in another pivotal period where proposed healthcare cuts could have a devastating impact for years to come – closed hospitals and reduced services, longer waits for patient care and job losses that further destabilize our shaky economic. Our nation – its economy and its citizens – can’t afford these healthcare cuts.