As the year winds down and 2013 looms, much of our focus has shifted to important issues looming in Washington, D.C. No issue has dominated the attention of Washington more than the fiscal cliff.
The fiscal cliff is comprised of numerous components including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, expiration of the debt limit, a severe scheduled reduction of Medicare rates paid to doctors, the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits, the expiration of payroll tax cuts and deep deficit-reduction cuts that include a 2 percent Medicare pay cut for hospitals and other healthcare providers. All of these big issues are converging at once, and there are not many days left before the year’s end for Congress and the President to hammer out an agreement.
The fiscal cliff could have a dramatic impact on our healthcare. In New Jersey alone, the 2 percent Medicare cut would reach $93 million in federal cuts to hospitals in 2013 and would total $133 million in one-year cuts for all types of New Jersey healthcare providers including hospitals, nursing homes, home health providers and rehabilitation facilities. We’re especially worried about the impact of those cuts because the healthcare community already gave plenty to fund the Affordable Care Act. Nationally, providers took a cut of $155 billion in Medicare payments over a 10-year period to help fund the reform law. In New Jersey the cut is $4.5 billion over 10 years. To avert the fiscal cliff, both the President and the Republican leadership are talking about large additional Medicare cuts. But while such cuts remain on the table, the American people say they oppose deep Medicare cuts to healthcare providers. Two-thirds of respondents to a recent national poll www.aha.org/content/12/12-natl-survey-findings.pdf
said they fear such cuts would hurt senior citizens’ access to healthcare services.
The devil is in the details, which are ever changing. NJHA is busy in Washington, working with our delegation to ensure that they know about the recent history of cuts to our nation’s healthcare providers and the impact of further cuts on healthcare providers’ operations and on consumers’ access to services. Our healthcare providers – and the people who count on us, including a growing aging population – need to have predictability in a field that is in the midst of enormous change and transformation. Our hope is that Congress and the President come to a balanced agreement that averts the fiscal cliff for the nation, and averts additional huge cuts to our healthcare community.